Oswego School Board Officially Rebuked for Meetings Act Violations
Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis reminds board that there are both criminal and civil remedies to enforce provisions of the Open Meetings Act.
The board reported to Weis in April that it had neglected to tape record five closed session meetings held April 14, 16, 19, 20 and 21 to hire new district administrators.
The Illinois Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to audiotape or videotape all closed meetings.
Weis wrote in the letter released Thursday that the state must now determine what, if any, legal action should be taken for noncompliance.
He did note that the board self-reported the violations once realized and that the purpose of the closed meetings was permitted under the Act. Weis also wrote that for some of the closed sessions, "Board members made the effort to record the closed sessions as required by the Act even though they were unsuccessful in obtaining the verbatim recording."
Weis wrote that what concerns him is that this is not the first time District 308 has violated the Open Meetings Act.
"The Oswego School District 308 Board has a history of violations which is concerning to this Office," he wrote. "While some members are new to the Board, others have been present when these past violations have occurred."
The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to ensure that public bodies make information available to all persons.
"This obviously cannot occur unless the Board complies with the Open Meetings Act," wrote Weis.
Human error is possible, said Weis, and could have led to the unintentional violations of the Act. However, in the case of the April 14 meeting, no recording equipment was even present, leading Weis to say that the Board did not remember recording equipment or intentionally forgot.
"It is important to remember that the Open Meetings Act sets forth both criminal and civil remedies to enforce the provisions of the Open Meetings Act," wrote Weis. "These provisions should reinforce to the Board that violations of the Open Meetings Act carry potentially serious consequences including monetary fines and incarceration."
Consequencs can be avoided by compliance with the Act.
The school Board, in a letter written to the State Attorney’s Office on Aug.15, has agreed to the following conditions in an effort to resolve matters before litigation:
- All members of the Board must read the Open Meetings Act and sign an acknowledgement that they have complied with this requirement. Any new Board member will complete this requirement within 30 days of taking office. A copy should be provided to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
- Each Board member shall complete the Illinois Attorney General Open Meeting Act online training and provide proof of successful completion on an annual basis. Any new Board member will complete this requirement within 30 days of taking office. A copy should be provided to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
- Two recording devices shall be operational during all closed sessions of the Oswego School District 308 Board for a period of one year from the date of this letter.
- The Board must ensure that a trained member of the Board or a trained member of staff shall be present to ensure that the recording devices are working properly and have recorded the meeting. A list of those individuals trained in the use of the recording devices should be on file with the District.
- Each member of the Board shall complete an additional one-hour training by their attorney on the Open Meetings Act. The material must be approved by the State’s Attorney’s Office. This training shall be completed with 90 days from the date of this letter. Any new Board member will complete this requirement within 30 days of taking office. A copy should be provided to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Weis’ office also recommends that an attorney of the board’s choosing be present at all open and closed meetings for a period of a year.
The Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office will be monitoring the Oswego School District 308 Board for the next year to ensure compliance with the terms in the letter and any future violations, Weis wrote.