Attorney General finds village violated Open Meeting Act

Violation occurred at special village board meeting last October

By Andrea Earnest | Enterprise Staff

The office of the Illinois Attorney General concluded that the Plainfield Village Board violated the Illinois Open Meeting Act during a meeting in October 2014.

Plainfield resident Mark Allan Chmura claimed that his rights to public comment had been violated at a special board meeting and committee of the whole meeting last October. Chmura, who filed a request for review to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, had wanted to speak on an agenda item related to a road improvement project.

According to documents from the Attorney General’s Office, Plainfield Mayor Michael Collins told Chmura at the time “common practice” prohibited speaking on items that were on the business meeting agenda for a particular evening.

The documents show that Chmura asked if public comment was being denied, at which time Collins reiterated, “It’s common practice that we do not allow discussion on items on the agenda.”

The village responded to the Attorney General’s office, saying it allows any person the opportunity to address the village board through public comment on its agendas. The village added that the public and Chmura were given the chance to address the village board on that agenda item, but Chmura did not attempt to address the village at that time.

According to the Illinois General Assembly, the OMA “is to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and that the people have a right to be informed as to conduct their business.” The OMA also ensures that actions of the public body are taken and conducted openly.

The Attorney General’s Office concluded that the board violated the OMA “by failing to establish and record rules governing public comment and by prohibiting Mr. Chmura from addressing the board based on its common practice.”

Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office requested that the board establish and record rules that “encourage rather than discourage public comment.”

“We question whether a rule prohibiting public comment on items on the meeting agenda would be valid,” Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Reed wrote in the office’s determination.

When asked about the Attorney General’s ruling, Chmura said he was happy with the outcome.

“The residents have won,” he said.

As of press time, the village could not be reached for a comment.

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