Two Northern Illinois Counties Accused of Possible Meeting Violations
Meetings Under Review in Whiteside and DeKalb Counties
In Whiteside County, Sauk Valley Media is waiting to hear from the Illinois Attorney General’s office. At issue--whether members of the county board violated the Open Meetings Act. Late last month, members of the board allegedly threatened to call police when a reporter tried to cover a discussion over the selection of a new board chairman. Members contend it was a caucus gathering, not a public meeting.
Illinois Press Association attorney Don Craven spoke with WNIJ about the meeting:
"The onus falls on those members of the county board who want to meet to discuss this matter to cite an exemption that allows them to do so in a closed session."
- Don Craven
In DeKalb County, the board halted a Dec. 3 public meeting in order to choose a new chairman.
You can view video of the board meeting here
State’s Attorney Richard Schmack told members during the meeting that the move to pause the meeting to discuss a new chairman could be a violation of the Open Meetings Act. The board decided to stand at ease anyway. Schmack’s office tells WNIJ he is currently researching the issue.
History of the Illinois Open Meetings Act
From the League of Women Voters: In 1957, Illinois first adopted an Act in relation to meetings, commonly called the Open Meetings Act. There was a major revision of the Act in 1967 and another in 1981. Between 1981 and 1991 amendments were made to the Act in response to changing needs and conditions.
According to the guide from the Illinois Attorney General, the Illinois Open Meetings Act is designed to prohibit secret deliberations and action on matters which, due to their potential impact on the public, properly should be discussed in a public forum. People ex rel. Difanis v. Barr, 83 Ill. 2d 191, 202 (1980).