Springfield school district wins Open Meetings dispute
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that Springfield School District 186 did not violate the Open Meetings Act (OMA) in discussing a personnel matter in 2013, Illinois Leaks reported recently.
The ruling upholds a circuit court's decision to overturn the Illinois attorney general’s binding opinion on an alleged violation of Section 2(e) of the Open Meetings Act. An appellate court had also agreed with the decision.
In the case, Board of Education of Springfield School District No. 186 v. The Attorney General of the State of Illinois, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan alleged that the school board violated the OMA when it discussed the separation agreement of then-superintendent Dr. Walter Milton Jr. in a closed session on Jan. 31, 2013.
State Journal-Register reporter Molly Beck filed a request for review with the attorney general. Because six of the seven board members signed the agreement, the attorney general argued that they had violated the OMA by voting on the matter in the closed session.
The board posted the online agenda for a public meeting regarding the resolution on the separation agreement and release of Milton on March 1, 2013. The meeting was held on March 5. At the meeting, the board president read the agenda item and resolution before a discussion and final vote.
The court said the OMA does not bar a preliminary vote in a closed meeting and that, “Under the plain language of section 2(e) of the Open Meetings Act, the public vote is not merely a ratification of a final action taken earlier in a closed session; it is the final action. Without the public vote, no final action has occurred."