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June 17, 2024

Mattoon School District Releases Attorney’s Opinion On Emails; Should Seek New Attorney –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On December 24, 2022

Mattoon, IL (ECWd) –

I guess this is why it is called an “opinion” – because opinions can be wrong.

At least it was put into writing for all to see.

We previously wrote about an email sent by a Mattoon School board member to a few other board members and the superintendent asking for something to be placed on the agenda. We also stated board member Dale Righter and board president Michelle Skinlo should both apologize for their false accusations against that board member accusing her of violating the Open Meetings Act.

We renew our call for them to apologize and also suggest the school board retain a new attorney who understands the Open Meetings Act and who will not write an opinion so obviously misleading.

Dale Righter went into great detail to falsely accuse a fellow board member, leaving out the most important words in the statute which would have rendered his entire accusation false (contemporaneous interactive communications). We caught it.

According to the Open Meetings Act, there must have been contemporaneous interactive communications – and there were none with this specific email. See pages 18 and 26 of these Attorney General Opinions (here), also see pages 10 and 15 of a training slideshow from the Local Governmental Lawyers Conference (here), also see a written opinion from the Village of Oak Park’s attorney on this subject (here). All these links cover what Dale Righter and the Mattoon School District’s attorney failed to cover (the actual requirements which must be met to violate the act).

From the Attorney Brandon K. Wright’s Opinion:

It is my opinion that Board Member Heidi Larson likely violated the Open Meetings Act with her email on October 4, 2022: she created a “gathering” via electronic communication with a total of four board members in an attempt to discuss school district business.”

“likely violated”, “attempt to discuss”?  

Wright later went on to explain how the OMA was not violated but opined on how it could have been violated. Just because something could have happened, does not mean it did happen. This opinion should be withdrawn and corrected.

What the opinion should have said:

It is my opinion that Board Member Heidi Larson DID NOT VIOLATE the Open Meetings Act with her email on October 4, 2022: she created a “gathering” via electronic communication with a total of four board members, HOWEVER, THERE WAS NO CONTEMPERANEOUS INTERACTIVE COMMUNICATIONS discussING school district business.”

Mattoon School District Atty OMA Violation Opinion 10242022

 

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1 Comment
  • Dave
    Posted at 11:23h, 24 December Reply

    How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words! ~ Samuel Adams

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