Saturday, September 19, 2009

District 200 - Open Meetings Act violation?

Could the Woodstock District 200 School Board be violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act?

The "Meetings Agendas and Minutes" webpage of the school district indicates that the next meeting of the school board will be September 22, 2009, at 7:00PM. All well and good. The public is informed and advised in advance of this meeting. It will be held at the Clay PDC (Professional Development Center). The address for Clay Academy is 112 Grove Street, Woodstock.

OK, so what's the problem?

The problem is that the school board will actually meet at 5:30PM. When you click through to the Agenda for the September 22 meeting, you learn that the school board will meet at 5:30PM for a closed (or executive) session.

The school board must convene first in the open (requiring notice to the public), before it can go into executive session. By convening earlier than the announced 7:00PM starting time announced on the first webpage, does it automatically violate the Illinois Open Meetings Act?

It apparently does not intend to vote in public on any matter discussed in the executive session, either at the end of the executive session or during any portion of the meeting convened at 7:00PM, because no item is on the Agenda. Without that Agenda item, is the Board prevented from taking action on any disciplinary or personnel (or other) issue discussed in private?

I will guess that the Board has decided to meet earlier than 7:00PM in order not to waste the public's time while it discusses certain matters in private, which it has the right to do. But, by scheduling the starting time earlier on the Agenda than it does elsewhere, it could appear to some that it intends to do this without the public's awareness.

A better Agenda schedule would inform the public that the Board will convene at 5:30PM for a (closed) executive session and that, after that session, action, if any, will only be taken after the start of the 7:00PM session. Doing it this way assures the Board, and the public, that no unintentional Open Meetings Act violation will occur.

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