Illinois. (ECWd) –
Having attended more public meetings than we can keep track of, there is one issue that keeps rearing its ugly head: what, if anything, can be revealed about closed session discussions?
The Open Meetings Act allows public bodies to go into closed session. Specifically, it states that they “may” go into closed session for numerous issues of which the statute spells out (Illinois OMA statute) The very fact that public bodies “may” go into closed session tells us that it is not a requirement – it even says as much in Section 2 of the Act: “The exceptions authorize but do not require the holding of a closed meeting to discuss a subject included within an enumerated exception.”
Logic would tell you that since it is not a requirement, then what goes on in closed session is not private.
As we have said for years, a public official can come out of a closed session and share everything that went on in that meeting with anyone they wish.
What they cannot do, and is built into the Open Meetings Act (Sec 2.06(e) and (f)), is release actual copies of closed session meeting minutes or closed session records without a vote of the public body to release them to the public.
Other than actual minutes and records, any person in a closed meeting can come out and tell everyone exactly what was said, and who said it – and there is nothing the public body can do to stop them.
Don’t take our word for it! Read what the Illinois Appellate Court’s position on this is.
“There is nothing in the Act that provides a cause of action against a public body for disclosing information from a closed meeting.” (read page 9, paragraph 609 of this Illinois Appellate Case)
Also confirming the above, is a Q and A from IPO, which states (emphasis ours):
“Q: What can the library board do if someone is “leaking” information from a closed meeting?
A: This is a particularly vexing problem for library boards suffering from internal dissent. The Illinois Attorney General has given the opinion that boards do not have the right to sanction members who reveal what went on at a closed meeting. Therefore, there is not much you can do about such a situation. On the other hand, a board cannot be sued by someone who claims to have been injured by disclosure of information from a closed meeting. The Illinois Appellate Court has held that there is nothing in the Act that provides a cause of action against a public body for disclosure of information from a closed meeting. Swanson v. Board of Police Commissioners. 197 Ill. App.3d 592 (Dist.1990).”
“There is no provision in the constitution or the Open Meetings Act which expressly authorizes public bodies to sanction their members for revealing what went on during a closed meeting, and there is clearly no constitutional provision from which one may imply such powers.” (Click here for AG Opinion- see page 3)
Any board member who wishes to disclose the information from a closed meeting may do so and there is NOTHING in the open meetings act that provides a cause of action against you!
*There are certain limited exceptions to this contained within other laws, mainly FERPA (student records) and HIPAA (health records).