Appellate Court Dismisses Claims Barred by OMA’s 60-Day Statute of Limitations
Recently, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed, in part, the dismissal of two claims under the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) as time-barred under Section 3(a), which requires civil actions for OMA noncompliance to be filed within 60 days of the meeting where the alleged violation occurred.
At issue in Better Government Association v. Chicago City Council was a multi-count complaint against the City Council filed in June 2020, alleging that three of its teleconferences—in March, April, and May 2020—violated the OMA because (1) the meetings were not open; (2) the City Council failed to provide public notice; (3) the City Council failed to provide a way for the public to attend the meeting; and (4) the City Council did not properly enter a closed meeting. In response, the City Council argued that the teleconferences did not qualify as “meetings” under the OMA. The City Council also argued that any allegations regarding the March and April teleconferences were time-barred by the OMA’s 60-day statute of limitations under Section 3(a), as they occurred 67 and 74 days, respectively, before the complaint was filed. Finally, the City Council argued that the claims regarding failure to allow public access were moot because it released a recording of the meeting. The Circuit Court agreed with the City Council and granted its motion to dismiss, finding that the allegations related to the March and April teleconferences were time-barred and the failure to allow access claim was moot. The Better Government Association appealed the Circuit Court’s decision.
On appeal, the Appellate Court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the claims regarding the March and April teleconferences as time-barred by the OMA. The Court reasoned that the OMA contains a statute of limitations in Section 3(a), which is the statute of limitations that should be applied to cases concerning violations of the OMA. Applying the 60-day statute of limitations, the Court held that the Better Government Association failed to file its complaint regarding the March and April meetings in a timely manner because it was aware of those meetings on April 21, 2020, but failed to file its complaint until June 2020—after the 60-day statute of limitations had run.
With respect to the remaining complaint regarding the May 2020 teleconference (which was not time-barred), the Appellate Court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of the allegations as moot. The Court found that only an unapproved, leaked version of the audio of the May teleconference was released. As the audio was not officially released by the City Council, the Court found that it did not comply with the City Council’s obligations under the OMA. The Court reasoned that the City Council would need to release audio and minutes of the May 2020 teleconference to comply with the OMA.
If you have any questions regarding this decision or any OMA matters, please contact one of the authors of this alert or any Franczek attorney.