Sunday, July 28, 2013

Did McH Co Ethics Commission violate Open Meetings Act?

When the McHenry County Ethics Commission quickly ducked into Executive (Closed) Session before even officially convening the hearing into Cal Skinner's complaint against Undersheriff Andy Zinke on Thursday, July 25, did it violate the Illinois Open Meetings Act?

After listening to Mark Gummerson and Rebecca Lee, representing Zinke, warm up the air in the room for about 20 minutes, one Commissioner made a motion to go into Closed Session. The Commission voted 3-1 to do so. After the vote, the Chairman named two sections of the OMA as the exclusions for which they would meet privately. Oops.

The problem? The Commission voted without knowing what the exclusions were. Would it have been rude for me to interrupt when their voting began?

The Chairman named Sections 1 and 4 as the authority for meeting in private. Let's see if those hold water here:

5 ILCS 120/2, Sec. 2 contains

   (c) Exceptions. A public body may hold closed meetings to consider the following subjects:
        (1) The appointment, employment, compensation,
discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity.


(4) Evidence or testimony presented in open hearing,
or in closed hearing where specifically authorized by law, to a quasi-adjudicative body, as defined in this Act, provided that the body prepares and makes available for public inspection a written decision setting forth its determinative reasoning.

The public body in this case is the McHenry County Ethics Commission. Clearly, Undersheriff Andy Zinke is not an employee of the "public body" (the Ethics Commission). So, strike down Exception (c) (1).

Now, on to Subsection (4). The Commission could go into a Closed Meeting to "consider ... Evidence or testimony presented in open hearing..."

Because the Commission never formally opened a hearing on Thursday, July 25, it could not go into a Closed Meeting under Subsection (4). There should have been an open hearing with "evidence or testimony presented", and that never happened. Cal Skinner never got in a word, and anything said by Gummerson and Lee during the Public Comment period should have had no bearing in the hearing.

The next step? File a Request for Review with the Public Access Bureau of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General? What would they say about this Closed Meeting?

Will the Ethics Commission be forced to re-convene and hold a proper hearing?

And another next step? Watch carefully for the written decision of the Ethics Commission setting forth its determinative reasoning and inspect it publicly before it can be destroyed (legally).

Who said, "It ain't over 'til it's over"? Yogi Berra (1925 - ) (Hey, he's still with us!)

As a fun aside, check out this webpage with Yogi-isms. Does anyone own The Yogi Book.

1 comment:

Maverick50 said...

Yes they should have a hearing... The first one would be null. Is the Ethics Commission as corrupt as the rest of the McHenry County Government body?