Carlinville violated Open Meetings Act: Attorney General office

Carlinville violated Open Meetings Act: Attorney General office

CARLINVILLE (Nov. 9, 2017) – The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has ruled that the city of Carlinville violated the Open Meetings Act by not giving advance notice of the Sept. 25 regional water meeting at which three city council representatives were in attendance.

The ruling came in the form of a Nov. 1 letter sent to City Attorney Rick Bertinetti and John Kraft, who had filed a request for review regarding the meeting. The letter states Kraft’s request alleged “a majority of a quorum of the City Council (three of the nine members) deliberated about public business at a private water company in Jerseyville without providing advance notice or otherwise adhering to the requirements of OMA.” It notes Kraft provided a video recording of the meeting.

Asked by the Attorney General’s Office to provide materials from that meeting for review, in addition to a written response, the council submitted a “save the date” email, agenda, meeting minutes, attendance sheet and written response.

The ruling states, “The City Council consists of nine members; five members constitute a quorum and three members a majority of a quorum. Therefore, if three members of the City Council engaged in deliberative discussions of public business during the September 25, 2017, gathering at the water company, that gathering would be subject to all the requirements of OMA.”

It notes the council does not dispute that it did not provide advance notice or otherwise follow the requirements of OMA for that meeting. The city’s response read, in part, “ The meeting of September 25, 2017, was not held or called by the City of Carlinville. It was a regional water meeting held for the purpose of eventually establishing a regional water entity that will provide water to its members. The ground floor members are the City of Carlinville, FWD (Fosterburg Water District), and JCRWC (Jersey County Rural Water Company).”

The city’s response also notes that the city council representatives in attendance were aldermen Cindy Campbell and Beth Toon and Mayor Deanna Demuzio; it claims Campbell and Toon spoke, but that Demuzio was only an observer. However, the Attorney General’s Office says the video shows Demuzio also participated in the discussion.

“Although the discussion may not have been called or held by the City Council, the discussion directly concerned the City Council’s public business, as the City provides water service and the parties discussed forming a new entity to handle water service in the region,” the letter reads. “Because a majority of a quorum of the members of the City Council gathered to discuss public business on September 25, 2017, without providing advance notice and without following the other requirements of OMA, this office concludes that the City Council violated OMA on that date.

“To remedy this violation, this this office requests that the City Council make the minutes of the meeting publicly available,” the letter continues. “This office also cautions the City Council to consider in advance whether gatherings at which three or more of its members may engage in discussions of public business require proper advance notice and adherence to the other requirements of OMA.”

In response to the ruling, Bertinetti said, “In my opinion [it’s] totally ridiculous! Interpreting this analysis, no three corporate authorities can attend such events as political rallies, public hearings, or any other type of public gatherings whatsoever, if they are going to ask questions about their city, without first posting a public notice. This is not what the Open Meetings Act is intended to apply to.”