Government

  Thursday, October 17, 2019     In a decision that could be of interest to municipalities seeking to combat the growing drug epidemic, a federal court in Pennsylvania recently ruled that safehouses do not violate the Controlled Substances Act when they provide facilities where drugs are used under monitored, sterile conditions. U.S. v. Safehouse. Safehouse, a nonprofit directed at fighting drug addiction and overdose, sought to open an “Overdose Prevention Site” to offer a variety of services aimed at preventing the spread of disease, administering medical care, and encouraging drug users to enter treatment. Specifically, the Safehouse facility plans…
  Tuesday, October 15, 2019     In Briggs v. Potter County, a federal court of appeals addressed a political retaliation claim involving correctional officers at a county jail in Pennsylvania after a contentious primary election that involved their boss, the chief deputy sheriff. Hunt and Briggs—both correctional officers at the jail—ran against Drake, the incumbent Chief Deputy Sheriff. Drake had recently retired from the Pennsylvania State Police and was appointed as Chief Deputy Sheriff, which was how the last three sheriffs were elected. As the primary campaign progressed, Hunt and Briggs were publicly outspoken about this method of electing sheriffs.…
  Friday, October 11, 2019     The City of West Bend, Wisconsin owns and operates a public park that includes a man-made swimming pond. The pond is divided into 3 zones, including a children’s play area, a diving area, and a general swimming area. Six year old Swannie Her was at the park with her family when she left the children’s play area of the pond to enter the diving area. She was found unresponsive at the bottom of the pond, and later died. Shortly thereafter, her family sued the City in federal court, claiming among other things that the…
  Thursday, October 10, 2019     Last Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a class action suit brought against the City of Santa Monica that challenged the City’s short-term rental ordinance on the basis of the dormant Commerce Clause. Rosenblatt v. City of Santa Monica. The City’s ordinance prohibits property rentals of 30 days or less but has an exception for rentals where a primary resident remains on the property. A resident and homeowner in Santa Monica who rents out her house on Airbnb filed a lawsuit against the City claiming that the ordinance directly and indirectly…
  Wednesday, October 09, 2019     The Luzerne County Convention Center Authority owns the Mohegan Sun Arena, a large event space in Pennsylvania. The publicly-owned arena hosts athletic and other entertainment events. The arena’s “protest policy” allows people to express their views, subject to several limitations. These include (1) requiring protesters to stand in designated areas on the concourse, (2) prohibiting protesters from using profanity or vulgarity, and (3) prohibiting any artificial voice amplification.  An animal rights activist and organization protesting a circus event sued the Authority contenting that the protest policy violated the First Amendment. The district court agreed,…
  Tuesday, October 08, 2019     The City of Chicago, like many other Illinois home rule municipalities, imposes a real estate transfer tax on the transfer of real property in the City. A group of residents recently challenged the City’s imposition of that tax on transfers to and from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, arguing that the tax was preempted by federal law that expressly exempts governmental entities from state and local taxation. The City defended its tax, arguing that these organizations were not “governmental bodies” so they were not exempt from taxation. In a recent ruling, the Appellate Court…
  Monday, October 07, 2019     The City of Chicago has enacted a 9% “amusement tax” which it imposes on a wide variety of “amusements” in the City of Chicago. In 2015, the City issued Ruling 5, which expanded the scope of the amusement tax to include amusements that are delivered electronically to patrons in the City, which include the privilege of watching electronically delivered television shows, movies, or videos; the privilege of listening to electronically delivered music; and the privilege of participating in games, online or otherwise.  A group of Chicago residents challenged the constitutionality of the amusement tax…
  Friday, October 04, 2019     The latest Quorum Forum podcast was recorded live from Kitty O’Shea’s at the 2019 Illinois Municipal League Conference! State Rep. Chris Welch and Kurt Asprooth join us to discuss sports betting and gaming, while Keri-Lyn Krafthefer discusses government transparency and watchdog groups. Finally, Matt DiCianni takes a look at the future of local government websites.  You can access Episode 29 here. What interesting things did you learn at IML this year? Email us at podcast@ancelglink.com!  This podcast is provided as a service to our public and private sector clients and friends. It is…
  Wednesday, October 02, 2019     More from the PAC Office of the Illinois Attorney General – this time, a binding opinion on public comment at meetings.  In PAC Op. 19-009, the PAC found a city in violation of the Open Meetings Act for prohibiting a member of the public from addressing the city council at a council meeting. A member of the public claims she stood up to speak at a city council meeting during public comment but was told by the mayor that he would not allow her to speak because she was not a city resident. …
  Tuesday, October 01, 2019     I was checking out the PAC website to see if they had published any new binding opinions and discovered an index published by the PAC of all of its binding opinions from 2010 to-date. This is a very helpful resource for public bodies because it organizes the binding opinions by category, making it easier for a public body to find out whether the PAC has issued an opinion on a particular topic.  For example, if a public body wants to know whether the PAC has issued a binding opinion on the authority to charge…
  Monday, September 30, 2019     After a relatively quiet summer, the Public Access Counselor (PAC) in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General issued its 8th binding opinion this year. In PAC Op. 19-008, the PAC found a police department in violation of FOIA when it redacted portions of its police reports. A news reporter submitted a FOIA request to a city police department (“PD”) seeking police reports concerning the arrests of two individuals. The PD subsequently provided him copies of the records, which consisted of two case reports and six officer supplement reports related to two different…
This week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a local ordinance regulating the size and location of signs against a First Amendment challenge.  Leibundguth Storage & Van Servce, Inc. v. Village of Downers Grove.  The Village has a comprehensive sign ordinance that regulates, among other things, the size and location of signs in the Village. One regulation prohibits “any sign painted directly on a wall.” Leibundguth has a wall sign that would fall into this prohibition (see below).  Leibundguth filed a lawsuit challenging the Village’s sign ordinance on the basis that it contained “content-based” exceptions for political signs,…
Tuesday, September 24, 2019     If you hadn’t heard, there was an interesting development out of Facebook last week when the company announced the establishment of an “Oversight Board” that would have authority to make final decisions about certain user posts that Facebook removes, among other issues. The Board will be governed by a charter and by-laws that would establish the structure of the Board and define the scope of its powers. According to Facebook, one of the purposes of establishing the board is to address some of the more significant and difficult cases of user activity on the…
  Monday, September 23, 2019     Thanks to one of our readers, we recently were forwarded a non-binding Public Access Counselor opinion (2019 PAC 58076) that looked at whether a city council took sufficient measures to make some of its meetings accessible to the public pursuant to the “open and convenient” requirement under Section 2.01 of the Open Meetings Act. Media outlets reported that after a local election, an Illinois city would discuss the qualifications of its Mayor-Elect during its April 22, 2019 council meeting. Specifically, the city council planned to discuss whether the Mayor-Elect met the residency…
Wednesday, September 11, 2019       In July 2014, Chicago Police Department police officers fatally shot a 16-year-old after he pointed a firearm at the officers on numerous occasions. There were several witnesses to the shooting, and the independent police review board in Chicago subsequently released basic details of the incident including the minor’s name, the date and time of the incident, and the type of incident. In January 2016, WMAQ filed a FOIA request with the CPD, requesting “all police reports, case reports, case incident reports and supplemental reports filed in the police shooting.” CPD denied the request…
Change To The Open Meetings Act Exemption Regarding Employment The Governor recently signed an amendment to the Open Meetings Act into law effective immediately. 5 ILCS 120/2(c). The law had allowed public bodies to go into closed session to discuss the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees.  The amendment now extends that not only to employees of a public body but also those specific individuals who serve as independent contractors in a park, recreational or educational setting or specific volunteers of the public body.  Boards should be reminded that this exemption does not permit generic discussions…