When we become aware of an advisory PAC opinion that can provide helpful guidance to government officials and employees, we like to report on those opinions and today’s opinion is a good example.
In 2023 PAC 76532, an individual filed a request for review claiming a city council violated the OMA because a majority of a quorum of the city council attended a campaign event where they allegedly discussed city business.
The PAC first noted that the Illinois Supreme Court has held that the OMA is not “intended to prohibit bona fide social gatherings of public officials, or truly political meetings at which party business is discussed.” Instead, the OMA is designed to “prohibit secret deliberation and action on business which properly should be discussed in a public forum due to its potential impact on the public.” The PAC also cited to a federal court case stating that a “gathering” will not constitute a meeting under the OMA when there is “no examining or weighing of reasons for or against a course of action, no exchange of facts preliminary to a decision, no attempt to reach accord on a specific matter of public business.”
Applying these court cases and their opinions here, the PAC determined that the request for review did not contain sufficient factual allegations to support an OMA violation. First, the PAC acknowledged that although members of a public body attending a campaign or political party gathering could convene a meeting if they discussed public business as a group “with the intent to reach an accord,” in this situation, there was no evidence that the city council members who attended this political event “engaged in deliberative discussions of public business amongst themselves.” Second, the PAC stated that campaign fundraisers where statements are made in favor of candidates and political positions are unlikely to trigger the OMA even where a majority of a quorum of the public body is in attendance. Without any evidence of actual discussion of city business as a group at the campaign event, the PAC concluded that no further action was warranted and closed out the request for review.