As we have noted previously on Municipal Minute, some of the more interesting opinions out of the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor (PAC) office are advisory/non-binding opinions. Today, we report on one of these opinions.
On August 23, 2020, a member of the public sent a communication to a park district board of commissioners asking the board to place an item on the agenda for an upcoming board of commissioners’ meeting. After receiving an email from the park district’s executive director notifying the individual that the board would not place the requested item on the agenda, the individual filed an appeal with the PAC alleging that the board of commissioners must have held an improper meeting to decline his request in violation of the Open Meetings Act.
In its response to the PAC, the board explained that the executive director (who is an employee of the park district but not a board member) conferred separately with four of the five board members about placing the requested item on the agenda for the board’s meeting. During those separate, individual discussions, the executive director gathered the consensus that the board would not add the person to the agenda.
The PAC first determined that there was no evidence that three or more members of the five member board engaged in contemporaneous interactive communications concerning a matter of park district or board business. Because these separate conversations between the executive director and individual board members did not constitute a “meeting” under section 1.02 of the OMA, the PAC concluded that the board never held an improper meeting under the OMA.
The PAC also determined that the separate discussions between the executive director (a district employee) and individual board members did not constitute a final action that should have been taken at an open meeting in violation of section 2(e) of the OMA. Instead, the PAC noted that the decision to place or not place items on an agenda is not a final action, but rather a procedural step needed to identify substantive issues to be discussed or acted upon at a meeting.
Finally, the PAC noted that the OMA does not require a public body to place an item on its agenda at the request of a member of the public.
Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink