The Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) is designed so the public has access to the decision making of taxpayer funded bodies across the state.
The Illinois OMA spells out what meetings of public bodies are open, what discussion is required to take place in the open portion of a meeting, the specific instances when a meeting can be closed and public notification requirements of meetings. All of those specifics are spelled out within the IBA Newsroom site.
The state’s law works under the assumption that all such meetings are open to the public, but it does spell out nearly three dozens exemptions.
The law sets out the definition of a meeting as “any gathering, whether in person or by video or audio conference, telephone call, electronic means (such as, without limitation, electronic mail, electronic chat, and instant messaging), or other means of contemporaneous interactive communication, of a majority of a quorum of the members of a public body held for the purpose of discussing public business”
The Better Government Association of Illinois reported a “public body” covered by OMA includes all legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies of the state, counties,townships, cities, villages or incorporated towns,school districts and all municipal corporations. “Public body” also includes all committees, subcommittees and subsidiary bodies of public bodies, such as park district boards, city councils and civic commissions.
The public must be given advance notice of the time, place and subject matter of meetings of public bodies.
Public Notice includes:
• At the beginning of each calendar or fiscal year; the calendar has to be posted at the principal office holding the meeting and at the meeting location;
• To the public as well as any news medium that files an annual request; and
• On the website of the public body; however, failure to post notice online will NOT invalidate any action taken at the meeting.
For special meetings, public bodies must give at least 48 hours notice and must include an agenda. Notice must be posted at the place where the meeting usually takes place and delivered to any news outlet that files an annual request. In case of emergency meetings, notice must be given as soon as practicable. Notice must be given in the same manner board members were given notice.
There are penalties for government bodies in violation of OMA.
If you have concerns there was a violation, you can check with your local state’s attorney or the State’s Public Access Counselor. There are time limits on filing formal complaints.