BUT HOW WILL THE ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT RULE?
Two cases from the Fourth District Appellate Court interpreting the “Public Recital” requirement of the Illinois Open Meetings Act have set the stage for the Illinois Supreme Court to weigh in on this issue.
Section 2 (e) of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/2 (West 2014)) sets forth what is known as the “Public-Recital” requirement. It states as follows:
“Final action. No final action may be taken at a closed meeting. Final action shall be preceded by a public recital of the nature of the matter being considered and other information that will inform the public of the business being conducted.”
In Board of Education of Springfield School District No. 186 v. Attorney General of Illinois, 2015 IL App (4th) 140941, the appellate court determined that the Board of Education of Springfield complied with the public-recital requirement of section 2(e) of the Act before it approved an agreement terminating the employment of its superintendent, by posting an agenda on its website that included an item entitled, ” ‘Approval of a Resolution regarding the *** Agreement *** Between Superintendent *** Milton *** and the Board.’ ” (Id. ¶ 7) with a hyperlink directly underneath that item linked to a digital copy of the agreement. (Id. ¶ 39).
In addition, at the meeting, the Board’s president introduced the item by stating as follows: ” ‘I have item 9.1, approval of a resolution regarding the *** Agreement. The Board president recommends that the Board ***vote to approve the *** Agreement between *** Milton *** and the Board.” Id. ¶ 7.
But in a case just decided this month Allen v. Clark County Park District Board of Commissioners2016 IL App (4th) 150963 the Fourth District Appellate Court ruled that the Clark County Park District Board of Commissioners violated the Act’s public recital requirement when they voted to approve unidentified leases and covenants but only announced that approval of lease rates and covenants were the matters up for consideration before moving to approve both.
However, the appellate court stopped short of setting forth any specific requirements for public recitals in general, leaving that task for the Illinois Supreme Court because it has granted leave to appeal to hear the Springfield case.
Watchdog groups and public bodies will want to follow the progress of the Springfield case carefully because the Illinois Supreme Court may be in a position to clarify what public bodies must do to meet this requirement.
Peter M. Storm
Cooper, Storm & Piscopo