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Recent Court Decisions

Recent court and agency decisions involving board work

IASB's Office of General Counsel prepares summaries chosen from the Illinois Supreme and Appellate courts, federal court, agencies, the Illinois Public Access Counselor, and other tribunals issuing interesting decisions. Information in the summaries is limited to a brief synopsis and is not intended for purposes of legal advice. For the complete text of any case cited in this section, go to the Illinois state courts, Illinois Attorney General, or Federal courts finder links.

To search by the names of the plaintiff or defendant or other keyword, use the site search box located at the top of this website. Then filter results by Court Decision.

Questions regarding Recent Court and Agency Decisions should be directed to Kimberly Small, ext. 1226, or by email ksmall@iasb.com.


Court decisions are listed in order of the date posted, with the most recent shown first.
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Proper Remote Meeting During a Public Health Emergency
    Case: Public Access Opinion 21-011
    Decision Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2021
    The Jersey Community Unit School District Board of Education (Board) did not violate OMA when it held a remote meeting on September 16, 2021.

    Requestor submitted a Request for Review on September 17, 2021, to the PAC alleging that the Board did not hold a proper meeting. The Board held its meeting on Zoom and did not have any in-person attendance for the public. Requestor provided the PAC with a link to the Board’s livestream video recording of the meeting as well as a copy of the agenda. The agenda explained that, “[d]ue to the increasing [Covid-19] metrics in the community and upon the recommendation of local officials, the Board may participate by audio or video conference without the physical presence of a quorum of the members due to the determination that an in-person meeting is not practical or prudent due to the current health emergency.”
    Requestor noted that the Board held in-person meetings earlier during the pandemic when Covid-19 rates were higher. Requestor suspected that the pandemic was being used as a pretext to disallow in-person attendance. The Board President responded by saying that he was advised to hold the meeting remotely because of the “disruptive” nature of the previous Board meeting. Requestor was also concerned because the audio was difficult to hear and that conducting Board meetings over Zoom was unfair to those who can’t afford internet service.

    Section 7(e)(1) of OMA states that if, “the Governor or the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a disaster declaration related to public health concerns because of a disaster as defined in Section 4 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, and all or part of the jurisdiction of the public body is covered by the disaster area,” then the physical presence of a quorum is not necessary for an open or closed meeting. The PAC held that the Board’s meeting complied with this section of OMA because the Governor’s disaster proclamation for Covid-19 was still in effect.

    Section 7(e)(2) of OMA requires that “the head of the public body as defined in subsection (e) of Section 2 of [FOIA] determines that an in-person meeting or a meeting conducted under [OMA] is not practical or prudent because of a disaster[.]” The PAC also held that the Board complied with section 7(e)(2), reasoning that the Board’s remote meeting was prudent because several members of the public had refused to cooperate with the Board’s masking requirement during their August meeting.
    The PAC also found the Board was also in compliance with section 7(e)(4) of OMA, which states that when “attendance at the regular meeting location is not feasible due to the disaster, including the issued disaster declaration…the public body must make alternative arrangements to allow any interested member of the public access to contemporaneously hear all discussion[.]” The Board provided access by providing the public a Zoom link to its meeting.

    For these reasons, the PAC held that the Board complied with OMA when it held their meeting remotely.

    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
  • Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
    Names of City Employees Who Engaged in Misconduct Are Subject to Disclosure
    Case: Public Access Opinion 21-010
    Decision Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2021
    The Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) of the City of Chicago (City) violated FOIA when it redacted names of its employees from records submitted to Requestor.
     
    On May 6, 2021, Requestor, a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, submitted a FOIA request to OEMC by email. The request sought copies of records related to a letter expressing concerns about “allegations of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and a discipline heavy and hostile work environment” at the OEMC. On June 2, 2021, OEMC responded to Requestor with copies of the responsive records. However, several names were redacted from the copies, including the complainant, the name of an employee who violated OEMC’s social media policy, and the names of potential witnesses to the filed complaint, as well as the telephone numbers of the complainant and the respondent. This information was redacted pursuant to sections 7(1)(b), possibly 7(1)(c), and 7(1)(n) of FOIA. On June 28, 2021, Requestor submitted his Request for Review to the PAC contesting the redactions.
     
    Section 7(1)(b) of FOIA exempts “[p]rivate information unless disclosure is required by another provision of [FOIA], a State or federal law or a court order.” Similarly, section 7(1)(c) of FOIA exempts “[p]ersonal information…which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy[.]” Section 7(1)(n) of FOIA exempts “[r]ecords relating to a public body’s adjudication of employee grievances or disciplinary cases; however, this exemption shall not extend to the final outcome of cases in which discipline is imposed.”
     
    The PAC held that names are not considered private information under section 7(1)(b). FOIA defines “private information” as “unique identifiers.” Examples of unique identifiers include social security numbers and driver’s license numbers. Names are not included in the definition, according to the PAC. The PAC also stated that “[r]ecords concerning alleged workplace misconduct and violations of policies…bear directly on the public duties of public employees.” The PAC therefore held that those redactions were not justified under section 7(1)(c) either. The PAC stated that section 7(1)(n) was also not applicable because “[t]he available information indicates that these matters were resolved by the City without advancing to a formal agency proceeding that constituted an adjudication.” For these reasons, the PAC concluded that the OEMC violated FOIA by submitting the redacted records, and directed the OEMC to disclose the names of the City employees to the Requestor.
     
    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Duty to Provide Opportunity for Public Comment in Open Session
    Case: Public Access Opinion 21-009
    Decision Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2021
    The Board of Education of Hillsboro Community Unit School District No. 3 (Board) violated OMA when it did not provide an opportunity for public comment in open session during its meeting on June 15, 2021.
     
    On June 24, 2021, Requestor, a sports writer for the State Journal-Register, emailed the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission (Commission) questioning whether the Board improperly restricted public comment during its meeting on June 15, 2021. In his email, Requestor said that the meeting had a large attendance, and that many were interested in the decision not to re-hire the boys’ basketball coach. However, after roll call was taken, Requestor noted that the Board immediately went into closed session. The superintendent told everyone in attendance that anyone who signed up to speak at the meeting would be able to do so.
     
    Requestor went on to explain that the members of the public who wanted to address the Board were each called into the Board’s closed session. After the closed session ended, the Requestor stated that the Board “wrapped up all motions in a matter of minutes.” He went on to mention that no members of the public made public statements during the meeting. Requestor stated that he was trying to contact the Attorney General’s Office, and specifically wanted to know the legality of the Board’s actions. The Commission forwarded Requestor’s message to the PAC.
     
    Upon review, the PAC found that the Board violated section 2.06(g) of OMA, which states that “[a]ny person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body.” The PAC also noted in its opinion that “this provision requires that all public bodies…provide an opportunity for public comment.” In this context, public comment means providing a chance for members of the public to address the members of a public body in open session. The Board failed to do this during its meeting, therefore it was directed by the PAC to provide an opportunity for public comment in open session during all future meetings.
     
  • Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
    Duty to Respond to FOIA Requests
    Case: Public Access Opinion 21-008
    Decision Date: Tuesday, August 31, 2021
    The Office of the Mayor of the City of Chicago (Mayor’s Office) violated FOIA when it failed to comply with a request for copies of text message conversations.
     
    On June 17, 2021, Requestor, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, submitted a FOIA request to the Mayor’s Office seeking copies of any and all text messages between the Mayor and two individuals from Loretto Hospital between December 1, 2020 through March 29, 2021. The request sought messages on personal and city-issued devices. This request was one of 20 FOIA requests that Requestor had re-submitted to the Mayor’s Office that day.
     
    On June 24, the Mayor’s Office acknowledged that it had received the request. Citing section 3(e)(vii) of FOIA, the Mayor’s Office extended its time to respond by five business days. After the extended period for response had expired on July 6, 2021, the Requestor submitted the Request for Review to the PAC because he had still not received a response from the Mayor’s Office.
     
    Section 3(e)(vii) of FOIA allows public bodies to extend the amount of time to respond to requests when “there is a need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another public body or among 2 or more components of a public body having a substantial interest in the determination or in the subject matter of the request.” It was acceptable for the Mayor’s Office to extend the deadline for a response. However, the Mayor’s Office violated section 3(d) of FOIA by failing, within the statutory time for responding, to provide the Requestor with copies of the requested records or to deny the request in writing in whole or in part. The PAC therefore directed the Mayor’s Office to deliver the copies of the messages to Requestor, subject only to permissible redactions.
     
    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Duty to Make Verbatim Recordings of Closed Sessions of Committee Meetings
    Case: Public Access Opinion 21-006
    Decision Date: Wednesday, July 7, 2021
    The Personnel Committee (Committee) of the Board of Directors (Board) of the South Central Illinois Mass Transit District (District) violated OMA when it did not produce a verbatim recording of the closed session portion of its meeting on March 18, 2021.
     
    In her Request for Review, Requestor, an employee of the District, said that she recorded and took minutes for Board meetings for ten years. However, she was recently informed that “the Board and legal counsel ‘would be taking care of all closed session minutes and recordings.” Requestor stated that when the Committee went into closed session, the board president asked everyone except for Personnel Committee members, Finance Committee members, and legal counsel to leave the room. After the closed session, Requestor noticed that the recorder “was untouched.” The board president confirmed with both Requestor and the PAC that the closed session had not been recorded. Requestor suspected that the Board avoided recording during the closed session because they discussed topics that should have been discussed in open session. She believes that this was done to avoid transparency.
     
    Section 2.06(a) of OMA states that, “public bodies shall keep written minutes of all their meetings, whether open or closed, and a verbatim record of all their closed meetings in the form of an audio or video recording.” Committees and other subsidiary bodies, such as the one employing Requestor, are included in the definition of public bodies found in Section 1.02 of OMA. The statutory language in OMA clearly demonstrates that the District violated the law in this instance. Due to the violation, the District was directed by the PAC to adopt procedures that would ensure the recording of future closed sessions. The PAC did not comment on whether or not the Board discussed topics during closed session to avoid transparency.  
     
    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.