Meeting Held 26 Miles from District Office Violates OMA
September 13, 2013
By Brian Crowley and Jamel Greer*
The Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General’s office recently issued a binding opinion holding that a board of trustees for a fire protection district violated section 2.01 of the OMA by “holding a meeting at a location that was not convenient and open to the public.”
The matter arose out of a special meeting scheduled by the board of trustees. The special meeting took place at 9 a.m. on a weekday at the office of the board’s attorney, 26 miles away from any part of the fire protection district. In its response to the PAC, the district acknowledged that since there was a quorum present at the meeting, the OMA applied. The district contended, however, that the special meeting was properly noticed, no decisions were made during the course of the meeting, and that the board saved the district the attorney’s traveling costs by attending the meeting at the attorney’s office.
According to the OMA, “all meetings shall be held at specified times and places which are convenient and open to the public.” In its decision that the district violated the OMA, the PAC concluded that because the meeting was held on a weekday at 9 a.m., 26 miles away from the district, the public was discouraged from attending. Additionally, the office noted that even though no decisions were made during the course of the special meeting, the discussions included several important matters that the public should have been able to hear. As a result, the PAC held that the board violated section 2.01 of the OMA because the special meeting was not “convenient” to the public. The PAC instructed the board to conduct its future meetings in full compliance with the OMA.
* Jamel Greer, a third-year law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, is a Loyola Education Practicum Student. The Practicum, part of Loyola’s education law curriculum, was created to provide law students with practical experience at education law firms and organizations. Students receive academic credit for their Practicum experience.