What are the penalties for violating the Open Meetings Act?

by:  Diane Benjamin

Violating the Open Meetings Act is serious.  There wasn’t a “dust-up” as Steve Vogel called it in the Pantagraph.  If the Attorney General finds the Executive Session didn’t comply with the law, the entire Council will be blamed-minus Alderwoman Stearns who walked out.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) is designed to ensure the public has access to information about government and its decision-making process.

You can review a summary of the law here:  http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/pdf/FAQ_OMA_Government.pdf

According to the Illinois Attorney General:

What are the penalties that a public body may incur if it violates the Open Meetings Act?

Criminal Penalties: Under the law, a State’s Attorney may bring a criminal action for a violation of the Open Meetings Act. A violation of OMA is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Civil Penalties: In a civil lawsuit for a violation of OMA, a court may take a number of actions, including (1) ordering a public body to conduct an open meeting, (2) granting an injunction against future violations by the public body, (3) ordering the public body to make available to the public the minutes of a closed meeting, (4) declaring null and void any final action taken at a closed meeting in violation of OMA, or (5) awarding any other relief that the court deems appropriate. The court also may require the public body to pay the attorney’s fees and costs of the person who filed the civil lawsuit alleging the OMA violation.

Will the Council be prosecuted?  Probably not, but they will be forced to release any parts of the tape deemed illegal. Since discussions took place that some people thought would never be public, citizens will get a good look at who is actually representing them.  Maybe that’s why some people are trying to marginalize the incident.  Is somebody going to be embarrassed?

Note to other media:  You might want to do some research.  Bloomington isn’t the first city with this problem.  There is one in Illinois where an alderman filed the same complaint.  He was publicly vilified by the elitists.  Shortly thereafter he was elected mayor.



One thought on “What are the penalties for violating the Open Meetings Act?

  1. It is good that someone hold the government, even the smaller city government, accountable. Thanks for this site, I just heard about it and would like to congratulate you for taking the time to give us this type of information. Well done!

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