Illinois Appellate Court Clarifies OMA’s Special Meeting Notice and Open-and-Convenient Meeting Requirements
A recent Illinois Appellate Court case clarifies a public body’s obligations for publishing notice and conducting special meetings under the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“OMA”). In In re Petition to Disconnect Certain Territory Commonly Known as the Foxfield Subdivision and Adjoining Properties from the Village of Campton Hills, No. 2-09-0331 (2d Dist. Dec. 9, 2009), subdivision residents filed a petition to disconnect from the Village. While the petition was pending, the Village Board adopted an ordinance that effectively prohibited such disconnection. The residents filed suit against the Village, alleging violations of the OMA related to the meeting at which the Village Board enacted the ordinance. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the Appellate Court affirmed, holding that the Village met the following requirements under the OMA.
Sufficiency of the Notice: Posting Requirement
First, the residents alleged that the Village failed to comply with the OMA requirement that an agenda be posted at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting, at “the principal office of the body holding the meeting,” or, if no such office exists, at “the building in which the meeting is to be held.” 5 ILCS 120/2.02. The Village posted the agenda 48 hours in advance of the meeting at the Village Hall and the Community Center. Nevertheless, the residents argued that it was only available for public viewing for 14 hours due to the office being closed during non-business hours. The court found the Village met its OMA obligations, holding that Section 2.02 of the OMA does not require an agenda be publicly accessible for 48 continuous hours.
Sufficiency of the Notice: Agenda Requirement
Second, the residents alleged that the Village failed to specifically list the annexation in the special meeting’s agenda. The Village included “Discussion and Consideration of Potential Annexation of Property” as one of the agenda items. Despite the residents’ assertion that the agenda should have identified which parcel was being considered, where the parcel was located, and that the Board would be taking final action on the annexation at the special meeting, the court found the Village complied with the OMA’s requirement to post the agenda for the special meeting. The court held that the OMA does not require that an agenda be specifically detailed, but only requires that the action taken at a special meeting be relevant to the agenda listed in the notice, a requirement with which the Village complied.
Sufficiency of the Meeting
Finally, the residents argued that the Village violated the OMA requirement that “all meetings required by this Act to be public shall be held at specified times and places which are convenient and open to the public.” 5 ILCS 120/2.01. The residents asserted that the special meeting was not “open and convenient” because the Board adjourned to closed session during the special meeting before hearing the annexation matter, forcing the public to leave the building and “wait in the parking lot . . . on a cold and blustery night until the Board reopened the meeting to the public at 1:15 a.m.” The court stated that the legislature did not intend for public bodies to hold their open meetings only during good weather, to hold their closed session meetings at a certain time, or to make adequate provisions for the public when the meeting is lawfully closed. Because the Village notified the public that an annexation was going to be considered at the meeting, giving them an opportunity to make arrangements to be present, the court ruled that the Village complied with its requirements under the OMA.
While this court ruled in favor of the public body in this circumstance, OMA issues are typically fact-specific and violations are serious. As issues arise, public bodies should consult with their attorneys.