On July 19, 2012, the Governor signed House Bill 4687 into law as Public Act 97-0827, providing two significant changes to the Illinois Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/1 et seq.) effective January 1, 2013. The changes are included in a new sub-section (c) which was added to Section 2.02. (5 ILCS 120/2.02(c))
Resolutions and Ordinances
The first change requires that posted agendas for meetings at which final action will be taken on any resolution or ordinance must include “the general subject matter” of the resolution or ordinance. Recall that the intent of the agenda is to advise the public of the intended business of the public body. Both Attorney General rulings and decisions by Illinois courts have noted that an agenda entry such as “discuss/pass ordinance” is not sufficiently descriptive. This change codifies those rulings into the Act. (5 ILCS 120/2.02(c))
Notice / Agenda Availability
The second change requires that the notice and agenda of a public meeting must be continuously available for the public to review for the 48-hour period preceding the meeting. There have been public reports of a handful of situations over several years in which a public body has skirted this issue, by posting the notice and agenda where it is not readily viewable by the public, such as posting the notice and agenda on a Friday evening in the interior of the building for a meeting scheduled for the following Monday evening. Compliance might be accomplished, for example, by posting the notice and agenda on the interior window of the building’s entry doorway or alternately in an externally mounted bulletin board that is publicly accessible. (5 ILCS 120/2.02(c))
The change also provides that posting of the notice and agenda on a website maintained by the public body for the 48-hour pre-meeting period satisfies this second requirement. Note this posting option differs from the requirement of the public body to post minutes on a website where that website is maintained by a full-time staff member. (5 ILCS 120/2.02(c) and 2.06(b))
Effect of Failure to Comply
Finally, a failure to comply with the second change and ensure that the notice and agenda of a public meeting is continuously available for the public to review for the 48-hour period preceding the meeting may result in invalidation of any meeting or action taken at that meeting, unless the non-compliance is due to actions outside of the control of the public body.
For those staff members and trustees who are responsible for the preparation and posting of notices and agendas for public meetings, beginning January 1, 2013, there will be two more requirements with which to comply. Make sure the notice and agenda for public meetings are:
In addition to becoming familiar with the new Open Meetings Act requirements effective January 1, 2013, this is a good time for public bodies to refresh their knowledge on a couple of the more recent changes under the Open Meetings Act.
Sections 1.05(a) and 1.05(b) of the Act require completion of the on-line Public Access Counselor's certification for Open Meetings Act designees (5 ILCS 120/1.05(a)) and elected/appointed members (5 ILCS 120/1.05(b)).
Section 1.05(a) requires annual continuing education for Open Meetings Act designees, but is silent as to the details of the annual training on the Act, such as how, when, where or how much annual training is required. Designees attending professional conferences and seminars should obtain certifications or written proof of Open Meetings Act training, and file copies with their governmental body.
For elected and appointment members, Section 1.05(b) added by (P.A. 97-0504 which became effective January 1, 2012), requires that members holding office/position on any public body complete the Public Access Counselor’s Open Meetings Act online curriculum during calendar year 2012. Any new members elected or appointed on/after January 1, 2012, have 90 days to complete the same training.
This training is only a one-time requirement. Copies of certificates of completion must be filed with the local government.
Note that a “public body” subject to OMA is broadly defined in Section 1.02, to include “all legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies of ... counties, townships, cities, villages, incorporated towns, school districts and all other municipal corporations, boards, bureaus, ... and any subsidiary bodies of any of the foregoing including but not limited to committees and subcommittees which are supported in whole or in part by tax revenue, or which expend tax revenue[.]” [emphasis added] (5 ILCS 120/1.02)
Timeline on minutes
Section 2.06(b) of the Act requires a public body approve the minutes of its open meetings within 30 days after that meeting or at the public body's second subsequent regular meeting, whichever is later. This requirement was added by P.A. 96-1473 which became effective January 1, 2011.That change also required that minutes of meetings open to the public be available for public inspection within 10 days after the approval of the minutes by the public body. (5 ILCS 120/2.06 (b))
P.A. 96-1473 also added Section 2.06(g) to the Act which requires any person be permitted an opportunity to address public officials at their open meetings under the rules established and recorded by the public body. (5 ILCS 120/2.06(g))