Shelby Co. (ECWd) –
In August of 2021, we published this article and alleged the Shelby County Insurance Committee and now former State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke failed the taxpayers of Shelby County. We urge everyone to read that article and watch the video to grasp what the meeting was dealing with because it disproves the false narrative that has been pushed by a select few. Not only were many questions never answered, there was zero investigation by any law enforcement entity regarding the matter being discussed.
Jeremy Williams filed a request for review with the Attorney General Public Access Counselor almost 2 years ago alleging exactly what we said in our article, two members had a private discussion in a public meeting and they voted on a matter, not on the agenda.
The PAC has confirmed, former Shelby County Board Insurance Committee consisting of former Chairman Bryon Coffman, former board member Barbra Bennett, and Teresa Boehm violated the Open Meetings Act during the meeting in question by having a secret discussion during their meeting and voting on an item not on the agenda. We note that Bennett was not in attendance during the meeting in question. The violation was partially attributed to the bad legal advice from former State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke who advised them they could vote on the matter being discussed. That appears to be a pattern since this makes the third time she was wrong.
The PAC reviewed the video of the meeting and their findings indicate a much different scenario than what was claimed by Kroncke in her response to the PAC.
“no committee member intentionally spoke in a manner so that others present could not hear[,]”
Attorney General PAC review:
“This office has reviewed a video recording of this portion of the meeting. Prior to the sidebar, the voices of the Committee members are fully audible. At one point, one of the Committee members turns toward the other, leans in, and appears to have a short exchange; neither of the members’ voices are audible on the video recording while they are leaning toward each other.”
“To the extent that the whispered discussion of public business between the two Committee members was not audible, this portion of the meeting was not open to the public. Further, it appears the Committee members intentionally whispered to prevent members of the public from hearing the discussion until they were ready to proceed with a vote. Therefore, the Committee violated OMA by concealing a portion of its discussion while in open session.” (emphasis added)
“With respect to the allegation that the committee voted on a matter that was not identified on the meeting agenda, it is the committee’s position that no violation of the Open Meetings Act occurred.”
She went on to cite two cases in an effort to support her position that they did nothing wrong. Neither of those cases was on point which indicates her legal research was not even on point to the section of the law in question, which the AG points out.
Attorney General PAC review:
“Agenda Item 2 does not include the general subject matter of the recommendation concerning the former employee. A recommendation regarding a former employee could concern countless subjects, and the posted agenda provided no indication that the general subject matter under consideration at the August 5, 2021, meeting related to a fraud allegation. The Committee argues that OMA requires only that a final action be “germane” to an item listed on the agenda, citing in support of its argument In re Foxfield Subdivision, 396 Ill. App. 3d 989 (2d Dist. 2009), and Argo High School Council of local 571 v. Argo Community High School District 217, 163 Ill. App. 3d 578 (1st Dist. 1987). However, both of those decisions address whether meeting agendas complied with statutory requirements that are similar or substantively identical to the current version of section 2.02(a) of OMA. Both decisions pre-date the enactment of section 2.02(c) of OMA, which became effective on January 1, 2013; therefore, neither case holds that the “general subject matter” requirement in section 2.02(c) requires only that an agenda item be “germane” to the final action a public body takes.” (emphasis added)
“Accordingly, this office concludes that the Committee violated section 2.02(c) of OMA during its August 5, 2021, meeting by voting to take no further action against its former employee relating to a fraud allegation without having listed the general subject matter of that final action on the meeting agenda.”
We note that Kroncke was also in attendance at a farm committee meeting where she claimed they were compliant with the Open Meetings Act, yet a binding opinion was issued proving her wrong once again. We covered that opinion in a previous article. Add that to her first county board meeting which resulted in bad advice by allowing a member not present to call in and vote when there was no adopted policy, she now has three OMA-related violations to her legal resume. In the December 2020 meeting the PAC said the very same thing we said during the meeting, you have to have a policy for remote attendance. We covered that matter in this article.
“In the future, if the Board wishes to permit remote member attendance pursuant to section 7(c) of OMA for any of the reasons specified under section 7(a), it should establish and record a Board rule permitting such remote attendance if it has not already done so.”
While we are pleased the PAC finally issued its determination, the public should not have to wait two years for them to make such a simple determination.
The PAC determination letter can be viewed below or downloaded at this link.