Thursday, August 3, 2017

Open Meeting/Municipal Law Questions

Following Q & A are from the website of:

March 2017
What happens if the agenda for an upcoming board meeting was not posted online in advance of the meeting, but was posted at the local government's principal office?

Under the Open Meetings Act, a public body that has a website that is maintained by full-time staff must post all meeting notices and agendas on the public body's website. The website posting requirement is in addition to posting notices and agendas at the public body's principal office or the meeting place if different than the principal office.  However, if a public body fails to post a notice or the agenda of a meeting on its website, that failure will not invalidate any meeting or actions taken at that meeting so long as the public body had properly posted the notice or agenda at the principal office or the meeting place, as the case may be.

October 2016

Can we require residents to remove election signs from their yards 7 days after the election?

Can we require residents to remove election signs from their yards 7 days after the election?

No. State law restricts the ability of municipalities to impose time restrictions on the display of political signs on residential property

February 2016
Can a unit of local government reimburse an elected official or employee for entertainment expenses incurred while at a conference?

No. The Local Government Travel Expense Control Act prohibits local governments (except home rule units) from reimbursing any official or employee for any entertainment expense unless the entertainment is ancillary to the purpose of the program or event. "Entertainment" is defined to include shows, amusements, theaters, circuses, sporting events, or any other place of public or private amusement.

January 2016
Can we limit the total time for public comment at our city council meetings to 30 minutes, and each commenter to 3 minutes?

Yes, so long as the city council has adopted rules for public comment. In a number of advisory opinions, the Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General's Office upheld similar time limitations on public comment. The PAC cautioned, however, that in order to restrict public comment in any way, the public body must have approved public comment rules.  Having a long-standing practice of limiting the time frame for public comment is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement of approved rules, according to the PAC.  So, if your public body has routinely placed restrictions on public comment (time limits, sign-ins, e

December 2015
Can a city council or village board require an individual to register 5 days in advance of a meeting to speak during public comment?

No, according to a binding opinion of the Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General's office (PAC).  See PAC Op. 14-012 (Sept. 30, 2014).  Although the PAC acknowledged that the Open Meetings Act allows a public body to adopt rules governing public comment, it found a five day advance registration rule unreasonable because it "does not take into account the fact that the public has a statutory right to address the Board."  The PAC determined that the advance sign-up requirement "imposed substantial obstacles for those who wish to speak at the Board's meetings," particularly because the OMA does not require a public body to post agendas until 48 hours before a meeting. 

tc), it should adopt rules for public comment to incorporate those practices.

November 2015
Can a public body begin its meetings with a religious prayer?

Yes, but with limits. The United States Supreme Court has decided many cases on this subject but its decisions do not give clear guidance. If a public body wishes to include a prayer as part of its meeting, here are a few guidelines to follow so as to avoid conflicts with the First Amendment.

  • Seek out clergy from a variety of denominations and faith traditions to lead the prayer.
  • Include a statement at the top of the printed agenda which says that says that the government body "does not endorse religious faith. The prayer is intended to lend solemnity to the public meeting and invite an attitude of respect and consideration."
  • Request the cleric to speak in nonsectarian terms, not referring to any specific denomination or creed, nor advocating particular beliefs, emphasizing the purpose of the prayer as stated on the agenda. If the cleric does not abide by this request, don't invite him/her back.
  • Do not provide compensation to the cleric from public funds
  • Conduct the prayer before the roll call which begins the official meeting. Typically the Pledge of Allegiance is recited before the roll call; this would be the best moment for the prayer.

By: Paul Keller

October 2015
Are school districts subject to local zoning?

Yes.  The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that made it clear that school districts are not exempt from local zoning regulations.  In that case, a school district had installed bleachers at the high school football field that did not comply with the city's height and setback regulations. The school district argued that it was exempt from local zoning. The court disagreed, finding that although schools are exempt from local building codes, they are not exempt from zoning regulations and must, like other property owners, follow zoning regulations and procedures.

August 2015
A board has determined that closed session meeting minutes do not need to remain confidential any longer and wants to approve their release to the public. Must the board also release the tape recordings for those closed session meetings to the public?

No, the board can approve the release of closed session minutes without releasing the closed session tape recordings to the public.  Section 2.06 of the Open Meetings Act requires a public body to record its closed session meetings in the form of an audio or video recording. The OMA states that these "verbatim recordings" are not open for public inspection, except in an action to enforce an alleged violation of the OMA.  These recordings can be approved for destruction not less than 18 months after the meeting, so long as the public body has approved the closed session meeting minutes. 

May 2015
Our city council meetings are held on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 p.m. Is the deadline for posting the notice on the Sunday before the meeting or must we post it by Friday at 6:00 p.m. since Saturday and Sunday are not business days? Also, if Monday is a holiday, does that mean we need to post the notice on the Thursday before the meeting?

The Open Meetings Act requires a public body to post an agenda and notice of a meeting at least 48 hours before the meeting.  So, if a public body meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m., then the notice/agenda must be posted no later than 6:00 p.m. on the Sunday before the meeting, which is 48 hours prior to the meeting.  Because the Act references hours, and not "days" or "business days," you do not skip over the weekend or any holiday in calculating the time period.  A local public body could impose on itself a more restrictive deadline for posting agendas, but that is not statutorily required - the statutory deadline for posting the notice/agenda is 48 hours before the meeting.

April 2015
Can the majority of a quorum of a governmental body attend a conference without violating the Open Meetings Act?

Yes. So long as they do not meet as a group and discuss public business.

January 2015
What do I need to do to comply with the new law that requires us to post elected officials' email addresses on our website?

Last year, the Illinois General Assembly enacted P.A. 98-0930 amending the Local Records Act.  The new law requires all local governments and school districts to post on their websites a mechanism for members of the public to electronically communicate with elected officials.  To comply with the Act, a public body can post either a "uniform single email address" or the individual email addresses of the elected officials.  A "hyperlink" to the email address or addresses must be posted on the home page of the government body's website.  The law becomes effective January 1, 2015, but governments have 90 days to comply with the email posting requirement.

December 2014
Must a public body allow public comment at every meeting, including committee meetings?

Yes, according to the Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s Office. In a number of recent opinions, the Public Access Counselor interpreted the Open Meetings Act to require every public body to provide an opportunity for public comment at every meeting open to the public. That includes all meetings of the corporate authorities (i.e., city councils, village boards, park boards, township boards, etc.), all committees of those councils and boards, plan commissions, zoning boards, electoral boards, and any other government board, commission, or body that falls within the definition of a “public body” under the Open Meetings Act. The public comment requirement applies to both regular and special meetings, according to the PAC.

June 2014
Are there prohibitions on elected and appointed officials and city employees accepting free items from vendors doing business with the city, such as tickets to ball games and events, fishing/hunting trips, use of condos during events/trips, etc.?

Yes, Article 10 of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/10 et seq., regulates the solicitation and acceptance of gifts by government officers and employees.  As a general rule, it is against the law for an elected or appointed official or a government employee to accept a gift from a "prohibited source," which would include a vendor that does business with the city.  The Act does contain a number of exceptions to the gift ban, including, for example, restaurant meals or refreshments that do not exceed $75 in value in a single day, political contributions, and gifts from one prohibited source during a calendar year that have a cumulative value of less than $100, among others.  An officer or employee can avoid violation of the Act by returning the prohibited gift to the prohibited source or giving the gift (or its equivalent) to charity.  Because violations of the Act can result in criminal penalties, officials and employees should consult with their municipal attorney if they have any questions about whether acceptance of a particular gift would violate the Act.  They should also review their local ethics code because some municipalities have enacted gift ban restrictions that are stricter than state law.

Kushner Companies subpoenaed over use of visa program

The Hill logoThe Hill

The Hill

 By Max Greenwood

Kushner Companies subpoenaed over use of visa program: report©

Kushner Companies subpoenaed over use of visa program: report New York federal prosecutors subpoenaed Kushner Companies, the real estate development company owned by the family of President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, over its use of a visa program that offers green cards to wealthy foreign investors.

The subpoena was received by Kushner Companies in May, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, and regards the company's use of the EB-5 visa program to finance a development in Jersey City, N.J. called One Journal Square.

It isn't clear what potential violations the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office is looking into.

The EB-5 visa program offers green cards to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. businesses that would create at least 10 permanent, full-time jobs for American workers.

The company launched a marketing campaign in Beijing and Shanghai in May seeking Chinese investors. That campaign promised green cards for as many as 300 people who invested the requisite $500,000 in One Journal Square.

Kushner Companies came under fire in May after Kushner's sister Nicole Meyer, a principal at the company, mentioned her brother's service in the Trump administration during a pitch to investors in Beijing.

The company later apologized for the remarks and said that Meyer's statement was not intended to use Kushner's work in the Trump administration to attract investors.

Above is from