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May 20, 2024

AG: Carlinville violated Open Meetings Act; Local rules do not trump State Law –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On March 7, 2018


On March 7, 2018, the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor issued a determination that the Carlinville City Council violated Section 2.02(c) of the Open Meetings Act during its January 2, 2018 meeting when it voted to suspend its rules and to adopt an ordinance without said ordinance being properly placed on the meeting agenda.

This one took an unusual path, but the final result is as it should be (read it below or here).

In the March 7th letter, the PAC retracted its earlier March 1st determination letter citing the fact that it “was inadvertently sent out prematurely and before the supervisory review process was complete.” The PAC further stated that “Accordingly, this office is withdrawing that premature determination and issuing the attached final determination letter in this matter.”

On January 2, 2018, the Carlinville city council had listed on its agenda, an item entitled “Ordinance Adopting Policy Prohibiting Sexual Harassment – First Read” – which told the public this item was for the first reading of an Ordinance and would possibly be placed on a later agenda for actual adoption through final action. However, the board actually took final action on the ordinance the night of the first read.

That action was the basis of my complaint to the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor. I acknowledged in various communications that I was not objecting to the city’s right under their local rules to suspend their rules, but instead, I was objecting to the city’s use of their local rules which resulted in a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

The city answered the complaint stating that their local rules allowed them to suspend the rules with a 2/3 vote, that the council unanimously suspended the rules, and subsequently unanimously voted and took final action to adopt the ordinance.

I answered the city’s response by stating that public bodies cannot suspend their rules when doing so would frustrate the requirements of OMA, and also stated that I was not disputing the Council’s ability to suspend its rules, only their ability to do so resulting in an OMA violation for the item not being properly placed on the agenda.

The PAC agreed, and in the first paragraph of the March 7th determination letter stated that “For the reasons that follow, the Public Access Bureau concludes that the City of Carlinville City Council (Council) improperly voted to pass a proposed ordinance at its January 2, 2018, meeting when the Council’s agenda indicated that the ordinance would only be the subject of a procedural motion.”

The PAC concluded that the Council violated Section 2.02(c) of the Open Meetings Act, and to remedy that violation, the PAC requested that the Council reconsider and revote on the ordinance after providing the public with the required advance notice of that final action.

At Carlinville’s March 5, 2018, meeting, the city attorney read the previous (March 1st) determination letter (watch that portion of Carlinville’s March 5 meeting HERE) and Council voted to “place the letter on file” – whatever that means. It should be noted that this vote to place the letter on file, is in fact action taken by the board and such action was not listed on the agenda, which may well be yet another OMA violation.  We hope the Council will own this and take corrected action at its next council meeting; read this new determination letter to the public, for Alderman Direso to Motion to place it on file, the Council vote to place it on file and note that the previous determination is no longer valid.

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  • Dave
    Posted at 21:05h, 07 March

    LOL…. they really thought a state statute was subservient to a city ordinance?? Don’t they have an attorney… good grief!

    • NiteCat
      Posted at 22:13h, 07 March

      Oh they have attorneys all right. Most of which are “friends”, “friends of friends”, “associates” of friends…it’s IL, that’s how it’s done. But even worse, from what I’ve seen all over the State, is the fact that none of these so-called “lawyers” have a clue what OMA or FOIA laws state. Some of the worst offenders are the big law firms representing multiple municipalities and numerous districts and always giving the wrong advice. Wonder how many attempts it took them all to pass the Bar Exam?? For cripes sake, I could “google” these laws and give better advice.

  • Kirk Allen
    Posted at 20:41h, 08 March

    I think they do it on purpose. It’s billable hours!