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The Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office (PAC) recently published its annual report for 2022 providing statistics on the work done by that office in 2022, including summarizing all of the binding OMA and FOIA opinions issued in 2022 (13 in total) and providing summaries of a few of the advisory opinions and informal resolutions from last year. You can find the report here. Regular readers of Municipal Minute know that we regularly report on the PAC’s binding opinions. However, we can only report on advisory opinions and other more informal determinations of the PAC when we
Continue Reading PAC Issues 2022 Annual Report and Provides Guidance on 48 Hour Agenda Postings

Although this case was decided by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (which does not cover Illinois), it is still an interesting land use case worth reporting on.

The City of Detroit denied a permit application to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in the City. The City based its decision on the location of the proposed dispensary, which would fall within the City’s “drug free zone” as established by the City Code. The City Code prohibits locating a medical marijuana facility “within 1,000 radial feet of the zoning lot” of certain sensitive places, including a school, and the City determined
Continue Reading Court of Appeals Upholds City’s Denial of Cannabis Dispensary

The Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General’s Office (PAC) recently found a public body in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act for holding an improper meeting. PAC Op. 23-003.

A member of a library board of trustees filed a request for review with the PAC office alleging that the board president and two other trustees met to discuss various staffing, salary, and other issues of the public body without posting notice or complying with other OMA requirements. The board submitted a response to the PAC, arguing that the “Meet and Greet” that was attended by 3 members
Continue Reading PAC Finds Public Body in Violation of OMA for its "Meet and Greet"

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against a billboard company in its First Amendment challenge to a county’s sign code. GEFT Outdoor, LLC v. Monroe County.   A billboard company sought to install a digital billboard which did not comply with the county’s sign code regulations. The company applied for a variance from the County’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZOA). After the BZOA denied the variance request, the billboard company sued the county under a First Amendment challenge claiming the sign code contained unconstitutional content-based restrictions on speech, and that the sign code’s permit procedures and variance
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Upholds Sign Code Variance Procedure

An Illinois Appellate Court recently struck down a municipality’s amusement tax, finding the tax was “preempted” by federal law. Wendella Sighting Company v. City of Chicago. In 2008, a municipality amended its amusement tax ordinance to require that all amusement owners secure an amusement tax from patrons to be payable to the municipality’s revenue department. A sightseeing boat tour company operating on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River sought relief administratively after it was assessed $3.2 million in amusement taxes and interest from the municipality. An administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled in favor of the boat tour company on
Continue Reading Amusement Tax on Tour Boat Operators Preempted by Federal Law

House Bill 2789 was introduced last month in the Illinois General Assembly to address the acquisition and circulation of library materials by public libraries in the State of Illinois. The proposed legislation declares it to be State policy:to encourage and protect the freedom of pubic libraries and library systems to acquire materials without external limitation and to be protected against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials. If passed, the bill would require Illinois public libraries to develop written policies to prohibit the practice of banning books or other materials in order to be
Continue Reading Proposed Bill Seeks to Limit Efforts to Ban Books in Illinois Libraries

An Appellate Court recently upheld a municipal code enforcement action against homeowners in City of Altamont v. Fritcher. The City issued an abatement notice to homeowners after the homeowners extended their backyard privacy fence and encroached onto a City public utility easement. The homeowners appealed, requesting that the City allow them to keep the extended fence in place as a reasonable accommodation to protect their disabled child. An alternative reasonable accommodation was offered by the City but was rejected by the homeowners. The City then brought an ordinance violation action against the homeowners. The circuit court ruled in favor
Continue Reading Appellate Court Upholds Code Enforcement Against Homeowners

On June 10, 2022, Governor Pritzker signed the Decennial Committee on Local Government Efficiency Act, 50 ILCS 70/1 et seq.,  into law. This law requires all Illinois local governments that impose a tax (as defined in the Act and excepting municipalities and counties) to convene a committee to study and report on local government efficiency. There are certain actions impacted local governments must take to begin compliance with this law by no later than June 10, 2023. Under this law, impacted local governments must:1     Form a committee to study local efficiencies and meet for the first time no later
Continue Reading Compliance with the Decennial Committees on Local Government Efficiency Act

Update to Correct Public Access Counselor’s nameJust a quick heads up to Illinois FOIA Officers – the Illinois Public Access Counselor (PAC) has changed the PAC’s email address so you should update your FOIA forms and other communications to use the updated email address. As you know, Section 9 of FOIA requires that every notice of denial (full or partial denial) must inform the requester of the right to review by the PAC and provide the contact information of the PAC. Below is the updated PAC contact information to update your forms and responses, and to use in any
Continue Reading CORRECTED Update to PAC Email Address

Just a quick heads up to Illinois FOIA Officers – the Illinois Public Access Counselor (PAC) has changed the PAC’s email address so you should update your FOIA forms and other communications to use the updated email address. As you know, Section 9 of FOIA requires that every notice of denial (full or partial denial) must inform the requester of the right to review by the PAC and provide the contact information of the PAC. Below is the updated PAC contact information to update your forms and responses, and to use in any future communication with the PAC:Leah Bartlett, Public
Continue Reading Illinois PAC Updates Email Address

In a recent ruling, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling in favor of police officers in a Fourth Amendment lawsuit against the officers who arrested an individual for having a rifle, bayonet, handgun, and other weapons in a public park on the basis that the officers had qualified immunity. Pierner-Lytge v. Hobbs.Police were contacted by a number of parents of children playing in a park that a woman was in the park wearing a rifle with a bayonet on her back and a handgun strapped to her hip, along with pepper spray, a baton, and two
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Upholds Ruling of Qualified Immunity in Arrest

A watchdog group filed suit against a township claiming the township violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The group had requested a “copy of the hard drive contents” of a specified township computer. The township responded that because it did not have the capability in-house to copy the entire hard drive onto an external hard drive to release to the group, it had to outsource that job, and informed the group it would have to pay $350 for the outsourcing services and an external hard drive.

The circuit court ruled in favor of the group on its FOIA challenge,
Continue Reading Court Denies Award of Attorneys Fees and Civil Penalties in FOIA Challenge

In a recent decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a municipality violated its former police chief’s due process rights when it terminated him without providing an opportunity to be heard. Bradley v. Village of University Park,   In 2014, a municipality hired a new police chief with a two-year written employment contract. The contract provided that if the chief was terminated “without cause,” he would be entitled to severance in the amount of four months’ salary. After the 2015 municipal election, the newly elected mayor and village board placed the chief on administrative leave and ultimately
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Finds Due Process Violation in Police Chief Termination

Earlier this month, an Illinois Appellate Court upheld the dismissal of a challenge to Chicago’s short-term rental (STR) ordinance. Mendez v. City of Chicago.
The City’s STR ordinance regulates short-term housing arrangements, like those offered on Airbnb and VRBO. In 2016, two residents filed a lawsuit to challenge the original STR ordinance and later added several claims to address the City’s amended ordinance. The lawsuit included a variety of claims, including the following:
1. Inspection Requirement
Under the STR ordinance, hosts with more than one rental unit are subject to an inspection every two years. The plaintiff-hosts challenged the
Continue Reading Appellate Court Rejects Challenge to Chicago’s Short-Term Rental Ordinance

A bill was recently introduced in the Illinois General Assembly that would expand on existing language in the Administrative Review Law (ARL) regarding necessary “parties of record” in a lawsuit challenging an agency’s decision. As a general rule, the ARL requires that “parties of record” be named as defendants in any ARL action to challenge the decision of an administrative agency. There is an exception in the statute that provides that only the zoning board of appeals and applicants are considered “parties of record,” and individuals who appear before the zoning board of appeals and submit testimony or written evidence
Continue Reading Bill Would Amend ARL Regarding "Parties of Record"

In a recent Illinois Appellate Court ruling, the Court reversed a school district’s termination of a teacher for her personal social media activities. Kelleher v. ISBE.

After a parent raised concerns about a teacher’s Facebook posts about her students, the school district investigated the teacher’s social media page (which was publicly visible), and placed the teacher on paid leave while it discussed disciplinary options. After settlement negotiations were unsuccessful, the school district terminated the teacher, identifying 16 charges against her, including her Facebook posts which the district claimed violated the school’s social media policy.

The teacher then requested a
Continue Reading Court Reverses Teacher’s Dismissal for Facebook Posts