By: Diane Benjamin
Laws don’t seem to matter to our Public Servants unless they are forced to follow them. Maybe that’s human nature, kind of like everybody is speeding so I might as well too.
But this offense meant there was no written record of what happened at meetings. The offender was the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals. I wanted to look up some issue from June 2016, but no minutes had been posted. When I filed a FOIA request for the minutes, I was told a recording of the meeting was online and written minutes were not required.
That was the WRONG answer! Written minutes are required under the Open Meetings Act. The Board is also required to approve those minutes. A recording of the meeting means the proceedings are extremely difficult to search, they had chosen not to comply with the law. Why was that?
I filed a Request for Review last July with the Attorney General’s office. The Zoning Board actually told the Public Access Office they weren’t required to post minutes to the County website. Again, wrong answer. A few minutes had been posted, most had not. While the AG’s office was investigating, minutes for this Board suddenly appeared on the County website.
The Open Meetings Act requires the BOARD to approve minutes and make them available to the public within 10 days. To approve minutes, they have to be written! The AG’s office noted the Board Chairman had been approving the minutes instead of the Board. Their policy has since been changed to comply with the OMA.
The ruling by the AG’s office is convoluted legalese as usual, but the Board was found guilty of two OMA violations, not that it matters. The important thing is minutes are now available. I’m assuming they will continue to be available in the future.
See the determination letter Here