JOLIET, IL. (ECWd) –
Attorney General: “. . . a meeting of a committee of a county board that is properly closed…may not be closed to a member of the county board who is not a member of the committee.”
During the August 4, 2022, meeting of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County’s alleged Executive Committee, the board entered into closed session and improperly prohibited two Commision members from attending the closed session portion of the meeting.
I guess the most ironic thing about this is that 8 of the 10 committee members are not authorized to sit on the commission, and those same unauthorized committee members removed two properly and legally appointed commission members from the meeting.
Committees of public bodies generally have the sole purpose of gathering information, reporting information, and making recommendations to the public body they are a committee of. They are not their own public body.
The public body which establishes a committee cannot be expected to blindly accept whatever information or recommendations come out of a committee, and are permitted to attend all committee meetings, including closed sessions of such committees.
For nearly 50 years, it has been the policy of this state that all members of a public body are permitted to, and cannot be restricted from, attending all committee meetings of that public body, including closed session discussions of committees.
In 1973, Illinois Attorney General WIlliam J, Scott, issued Opinion # S-647 to Will County concerning public meetings.
The question asked by then-State’s Attorney for Will County, Martin Rudman, was:
- “I would appreciate your opinion as to whether or not a meeting of a committee of the county board, which is properly closed to the public in accordance with the [public meetings act] can be closed to another member of the board who is not a member of the committee.“
Attorney General Scott responded with:
- Confirming Dillon’s Rule: “Will County has only those expressed powers granted to it by the Constitution or by law plus those powers that are necessarily implies to carry out these express powers.”
- “The County can delegate “the execution” of certain powers” (not the approval of such powers, only the execution of them) – Example: When a Board votes to enter into a contract, it can delegate a person or committee to sign the contract and oversee the contract’s provisions.
- Attorney General George Barrett discussed boards and delegating powers to execute action taken and described committees as “advisory bodies to the board” in Opinion #s 32 and 38 issued in 1945. Further stating that “The County Board has no lawful authority to strip itself of its statutory powers or duties in connection with any of the various functions which require the exercise of discretion of judgment and vest the unlimited exercise of such powers or duties in a committee.”
- “A perusal of the exceptions [to open meetings] that might possibly pertain to a committee of a county board reveals nothing that would indicate an intent to prevent a member of the county board, who is not a member of the particular committee, from attending a closed session of the committee meeting.”
- “Each board member is entitled to know what procedures were followed by the committee and what evidence or information was considered as a basis for the committee’s recommendations. Even when the committee is exercising a ministerial function, it is still acting as the agent of the entire board and a fellow board member ought not be prevented from attending meetings of the committee.”
- “Therefore, I am of the opinion that a [properly closed] meeting of a committee of a county board may be closed only to those persons who are not members of the county board.“
- In direct answer to your question, “I am of the opinion that a meeting of a committee of a county board that is properly closed…may not be closed to a member of the county board who is not a member of the committee.”
This language of the Open Meetings Act has not changed when talking about board members, committees, and attending executive sessions.
This Executive Committee of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Will County is acting outside the law and needs to reflect on their improper actions, which appear to be self-serving, and apologize to these two members of the Commission for ejecting them from the closed session of the executive committee.
This cannot continue.S-647 - cant bar board member from committee meeting closed session