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Paridon, et. al v. Trumbull County Children’s Services Board, 2013 WL 967577 (Oh. Ct. App., Dist. 11, Mar. 11, 2013).
The following case is from Ohio. It is not binding in Illinois. However, its facts and the ruling may be of interest to school officials. See the General Area “Public Access Counselor Opinions” for more information on the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
Patricia Paridon, among others, filed a complaint on October 20, 2011 for an injunction on the Trumbull County Children’s Services Board’s (“the board”) sign-in policy for public meetings. An injunction is a court order requiring a party to do something or to stop a party from doing something. Paridon asked the court to stop the board from enforcing its sign-in policy. The complaint alleged that on October 18, 2011, Paridon was not allowed to enter a public meeting of the board because she refused to sign a sign-in sheet in accordance with the board’s sign-in policy. Furthermore, the complaint alleged that this policy violated Ohio’s Sunshine Law. The trial court denied Paridon’s request for an injunction and she appealed the trial court’s judgment to the Court of Appeals.
The purpose of the board’s policy is to protect children that are within the board’s care and live at the board’s facility. The policy is also intended to protect the confidential records located within the facility. This facility is also where the public meetings are held. After a member of the public signs their name to the sign-in sheet, they are permitted to enter the meeting. The board does not verify the names of the individuals who have signed-in nor do they perform a background check.
Paridon made several arguments against the board’s policy. Among these arguments, Paridon stated that the Ohio’s Sunshine Law provided individuals with an absolute right to be present at public meetings. The court disagreed with this argument and stated that Ohio’s Sunshine Law does not preclude a public agency from instituting a policy requiring individuals to sign-in prior to admission to a public meeting. Paridon also argued that the board has not consistently required members of the public to sign-in prior to admission to a public meeting. However, the court stated that there was no evidence prior to this instance in which the board did not maintain a sign-in policy. Paridon then argued that Ohio’s Sunshine Law does not contain a sign-in requirement for public meeting and therefore, the board cannot implement one. The court disagreed with this argument as well, stating that the board may place access restrictions on their public meetings so long as these restrictions are content-neutral and narrowly tailored to serve a significant interest.
The court disagreed with all of Paridon’s remaining arguments. The court stated that the board’s sign-policy was content-neutral and narrowly tailored to assist in the board’s goal of protecting the children and the board’s confidential records. The court also stated that the sign-in policy was not intrusive into the lives of those wishing to attend the public meeting because it merely required a prospective attendee to sign his or her name to a sheet of paper. Furthermore, the policy did not prohibit individuals from attending the meeting. Rather, they had a choice to either sign their name or not. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling denying Paridon’s request for an injunction.
Posted date: 4/19/2013
Melissa-Ann E. Evanchik, IASB Law Clerk
Quo warranto proceeding to remove board member
People ex rel. Lyons v. Parker, 2012 IL App (3d) 110140-U, (Order filed 5/8/2012).
The following case is binding in the jurisdiction of the Illinois Appellate Court Third Circuit. Its content may be of interest to school officials in Illinois. It involves a “quo warranto” action. “Quo warranto” actions used to challenge another's right to public office. For more information on quo warranto actions, see the last paragraph below.
Parker, a candidate for the school board, had two felony convictions and filed his papers to become a candidate for his local school board. The State’s Attorney sought a court order to remove Parker’s name from the ballot and stop him from running for the school board. The basis for the request was that Parker was not eligible to run because his felony convictions disqualified him from holding public office pursuant to section 29-15 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/29-15).
Quo warranto cases are generally only brought by the Attorney General or the appropriate State's Attorney. If neither of them brings the suit, it may be brought by any citizen after s/he has requested the AG and State's Attorney to bring the same, they fail to do so, and the circuit court grants permission for the citizen to file it. After receiving permission to bring the suit, the citizen must post a bond when filing the proceeding because, if s/he is unsuccessful, s/he must pay the defendant’s attorney fees and costs. Depending upon the alleged violation, the law allows the court to impose a $25,000 fine or remove the board member from office.
A copy of this case is available at the following location: http://www.state.il.us/court/R23_Orders/AppellateCourt/2012/3rdDistrict/3110140_R23.pdf
Posted date: 03/01/2013
Illinois Eavesdropping Act
Carroll v. Merrill Lynch, 2012 WL 4875456, (7th Cir. 10/16/12).
This case may be of interest to school officials because the Illinois Eavesdropping statute applies to any conversation, including lawfully closed meetings under the Illinois Open Meetings Act. What that means is that while a recording of a closed meeting is required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act, an individual in a closed meeting making his or her own recording without the knowledge or consent of others present in the closed meeting would violate the Eavesdropping statute in Illinois. This case discusses the “fear of crime” exception to the Illinois Eavesdropping Act.
Mary Carroll called her coworker, Jim Kelliher late on a Thanksgiving Day. According to Carroll, she was “riled up” and she snapped on the phone. Kelliher’s wife overheard Carroll on the other end of the phone and recorded the conversation without Carroll’s knowledge. Kelliher was frightened after the phone call, and he reported it to his supervisors at Merrill Lynch. Carroll was fired for the phone call and initiated this suit as a violation of the Illinois Eavesdropping statute.
The Illinois Eavesdropping statute prohibits recording conversations without the consent of all the parties and the subsequent use of that recording. 720 ILCS 5/14-2 (a)(1). The fear of crime exemption allows unauthorized recordings under a reasonable suspicion that another party to the conversation is committing, about to commit, or has committed a criminal offense against that person or a member of his or her immediate household. To determine a reasonable suspicion, the exemption requires that (1) a subjective suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, and (2) that the suspicion be objectively reasonable.
Carroll argues that the failure of Kelliher to call the police means that there was a lack of reasonable suspicion. However, Illinois criminalizes phone calls made with the intent to abuse, threaten or harass any person at the called number. 720 ILCS 135/1-1(2). Carroll’s own admission that she was angry and snapped on the phone can be used as evidence of the abusive nature of the phone call. Further, Kelliher’s wife had a reasonable suspicion of a crime, so her recording fell under the fear of crime exemption.
Posted date: 11/06/12
Rachel Prezek, IASB Law Clerk
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