Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wdk. BOFPC gets OMA training

The Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) met at 5:00PM in City Council chambers. Chairman Ron Giordano and Commissioner Tom Schroeder were present; Commissioner Larry Howell was absent. Chief Lowen attended, and Deputy City Clerk Cindy Smiley was there.

The Minutes of the September 8, 2009, meeting were approved. I had wondered when they decided on the 2010 Calendar of Meetings, since there was no meeting in December. It happened on September 8.

Eligibility lists for patrolman and sergeant were posted at the Police Department in February. The sergeants' list is good for three years, and the patrolman's list is good for two years. The department is short three officers and one deputy chief, according to Chief Lowen.

Cindy Smiley conducted the long-awaited Open Meetings Act training. OMA training has been ordered by Mayor Sager for all Boards and Commissions of the City. Cindy is the authorized employee to receive FOIA requests and will conduct the OMA trainings. That got the City Attorney off the hook (and also saves the City some big bucks).

Highlights of the OMA training are:

1. Since the BOFPC has three commissioners, a quorum is 2. If two members talk about any Board business, then they are "meeting" and they must follow the OMA. If two commissioner talk on the street about Board business, they would be holding a meeting in violation of the OMA. Cindy made it plain that they cannot discuss Board business outside of a meeting. They can chat or have breakfast and talk about each other's health or family, but no Board business conversation.

2. Likewise, they cannot e-mail one another about Board business; that would constitute a "meeting." They can, however, email individually to their Board liaison, Chief Lowen, or to Cindy, who can reply to each.

They must meet in a place that is accessible by the public; they cannot meet in a home or restaurant on Board business. This is not a problem for the BOFPC, now that it meets at City Hall and not in the Chief's conference room at the police station.

Action can be taken only on items on the public agenda. They can "discuss" anything but, if it's not on the agenda, they cannot take action. There are provisions for emergency action.

Closed sessions must be audio- or video-recorded (with audio). Cindy clarified that a roll call vote must be taken to 1) go into Executive Session; 2) once in Executive Session, and 3) upon returning to open session.

After the presentation and the adjournment of the meeting, I posed questions to Cindy.

1. Does a telephone call between two commissioners that includes Board business constitute a "meeting"? Yes. She will clarify that to BOFPC members.

2. Can Chief Lowen communicate one commissioner's comments to the other commissioners? Would doing so create a "meeting" between them? Cindy will check into that.

3. Can commissioners communicate by personal, non-City email accounts about Board business? No. She will clarify that for the commissioners. She added that the City does not condone email from City officials or City Council members about City business by their personal email accounts. She added also that City email will not be re-directed to personal e-mail accounts, from which replies can be sent.

The problem with this is the high likelihood that such e-mails would not be found through Freedom of Information Requests. If a City official or elected person did use a personal e-mail account for City business, that would expose the personal e-mail account to FOIA inspection and release.

Thanks to the City of Woodstock for taking a very clear and firm position on compliance with the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

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