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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.
  • Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
    Applications of Individuals Not Appointed to Board Vacancy Are Disclosable
    Case: Public Access Opinion 22-011
    Decision Date: Monday, July 25, 2022
    On April 10, 2022, Requestor submitted a FOIA request to the Village of Chatham (Village) seeking the “names and applications of the candidates for” a vacancy on the Village Board of Trustees. The Village denied the request under Sections 7(1)(c) and 7(1)(f) of FOIA, arguing that the application process was confidential and that “[c]andidates’ resumes and solicitations for appointment to office contain information for the Village to evaluate their credentials; however this information is not readily available to the public and does not become public merely by inclusion with an application to the Village.” Eventually the Village provided Requestor with responsive records for the successful candidate who was appointed to the Board of Trustees, but it continued to deny responsive records for the unsuccessful candidates. Requestor then filed a Request for Review with the PAC.

    Upon review, the PAC first considered and rejected the Village’s assertion that candidates’ submissions were not public records. Not only did the submissions directly relate to both Village business and the interests of the Village community, but they were received and possessed by the Village. Next, the PAC considered Section 7(1)(c) of FOIA, which exempts from disclosure “[p]ersonal information contained within public records, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” To meet this exemption, the Village needed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the information at issue was highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person and that the subject’s right to privacy outweighed any legitimate public interest in the information. The PAC held that the Village failed to meet this burden. Finally, the PAC considered Section 7(1)(f) of FOIA, which exempts from disclosure “[p]reliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated.” Again, the PAC held that the Village failed meet its burden because it did not demonstrate that the contents of the responsive records revealed any opinions concerning the candidates.

    Based on the above, the PAC held that the Village violated FOIA by improperly withholding responsive records. The PAC directed the Village to provide the responsive records to Requestor, except for permissible redaction of individuals’ personal phone numbers, home addresses, personal email addresses, and signatures as “private information” under Section 7(1)(b) of FOIA. This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
     
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Discussing Specific Employee in Closed Session, Failing to Cite Applicable Exception Before Closing a Meeting, and Improper Closed Session Discussion of Bids
    Case: Public Access Opinion 22-010
    Decision Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2022
    On April 11, 2022, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the PAC seeking review of three closed sessions held during a special meeting of the Board of Education of Du Quoin Community Unit School District No. 300 (Board) on April 7, 2022. Requestor was concerned that a pending student transportation bid was improperly discussed during one of the closed sessions.

    The PAC reviewed verbatim recordings of the Board’s three closed sessions and learned that the first and third closed sessions were entered under OMA Section 2(c)(1), which permits a public body to enter closed session to discuss “[t]he appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees.” The PAC found the Board properly limited its first and third closed session discussions to this topic.

    The Board’s second closed session was entered under OMA Section 2(c)(11), which permits a public body to enter closed session to discuss “[l]itigation, when an action against, affect or on behalf of the particular public body has been filed and is pending before a court or administrative tribunal, or when the public body finds that an action is probably or imminent, in which case the basis for the finding shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the closed meeting.” The Board’s discussion during the second closed session, however, concerned what course of action to take in awarding a bid for a student transportation contract. None of the materials the Board submitted to the PAC indicated that the Board had a reasonable basis to believe litigation was likely and, even if such a basis had existed, the PAC found that the Board did not limit its discussion to strategies, posture, theories, and consequences of litigation.

    As a result, the PAC held that the Board violated Section 2(a) of OMA by failing to publicly disclose and enter into the minutes an exception authorizing the second closed session of the April 7th meeting. The PAC ordered the Board to remedy this violation by disclosing to the Requestor and making publicly available the verbatim recording and minutes of its second closed session.

    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law
  • Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
    Information Identifying Employees in Bargaining Unit Positions Exempt from Disclosure
    Case: Public Access Opinion 22-009
    Decision Date: Thursday, June 30, 2022
    On January 17, 2022, Requestor submitted a FOIA request to the City of Berwyn (City) seeking the following information for each city employee covered by the collective bargaining agreement with the SEIU Local 73: name, title, hire date, department name, work address, work email, and union. City denied the request under Section 7.5(zz) of FOIA, which exempts from disclosure “[i]nformation prohibited from being disclosed under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.” The City asserted this exemption based on Sections 6(c-5), 10(a)(8), and 10(a)(9) of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (IPLRA). Requestor then submitted a Request for Review to the PAC.

    Upon review, the PAC noted that Section 6(c-5) of the IPLRA prohibits a public body from disclosing certain employee information, including “any information personally identifying employee membership or membership status in a labor organization or other voluntary association affiliated with a labor organization or a labor federation.” The PAC found that Section 6(c-5) was specifically intended to insulate employees from third party communications concerning their union membership status, and thus the City sustained its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the responsive records were exempt from disclosure under FOIA Section 7.5(zz).

    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law. It’s lesson, however, is important for school districts because parallel exemptions and prohibitions appear in FOIA and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA). FOIA Section 7.5(yy) exempts from disclosure information that is prohibited from being disclosed under the IELRA, and Section 3(d) of the IELRA prohibits educational employers from disclosing certain employee information, including “any information personally identifying employee membership or membership status in a labor organization or other voluntary association affiliated with a labor organization or a labor federation.”
     
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Taking Final Action on Matter Not Sufficiently Identified on Meeting Agenda
    Case: Public Access Opinion 22-008
    Decision Date: Thursday, June 30, 2022
    On April 13, 2022, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the Public Access Counselor (PAC) complaining that the Shelby County Board Farm Committee (Committee) had violated OMA by voting on two items – hiring an individual to buy crop insurance and borrowing $7,500 for crop expenses – even though these items were not listed on the agenda for its April 7, 2022 meeting. The Committee asserted that it had provided sufficient advanced notice of these actions because they were “germane” to a matter listed on its agenda as “Discussion and vote on recommendation to the County Board regarding farming options for the County Farm.”

    Section 2.02(c) of OMA requires that a public body’s posted agenda “set forth the general subject matter of any resolution or ordinance that will be the subject of final action at the meeting.” The PAC noted that the Illinois Supreme Court indicated, in Bd. of Educ. of Springfield Sch. Dist. No. 186 v. Atty Gen. of Ill., that Section 2.02(c) requires a public body’s agenda to include sufficient detail to notify members of the public of the types of final actions that public bodies anticipate taking. Taken together, the PAC found this to mean that the general subject matter of the Committee’s final actions were to recommend that the County Board (1) borrow money for crop expenses, and (2) attain crop insurance. Because the Committee’s agenda did not contain agenda items identifying these as general subject matters of its final actions, the PAC held that the Committee violated Section 2.02(c) of OMA. The PAC directed the Committee to include the general subject matter of its anticipated final actions on its agenda for future meetings.

    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.
     
  • Open Meetings Act - OMA
    Board Took Final Action Without Voting
    Case: Public Access Opinion 22-006
    Decision Date: Friday, May 6, 2022
    On February 15, 2022, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the Public Access Counselor (PAC), complaining that the Board of Education of Community Consolidated School District No. 93 had “voted” to make masks optional in the District without including an action item on the agenda. At its regular meeting on February 10, 2022, the Board had a thorough discussion about the COVID-19 mitigation plan presented by the Superintendent and came to a consensus to remove the mask requirement and instead recommend masking. The Board directed the Superintendent to send out messaging that the masks would be recommended, but not required, beginning February 14, 2022. The Superintendent’s subsequent message to the school community indicated that the Board had made the decision at its last board meeting to transition away from the mask requirement.
     
    The Board contended that it did not violate Open Meetings Act (OMA) because while it discussed the mitigation plan during the meeting, it never took a roll call vote on the plan. In support of its position, the Board cited several Illinois court cases holding that there is no final action under OMA unless there is a public vote. Nevertheless, the PAC found that failure to treat the board’s consensus decision as a final action under OMA would be contrary to the legislative intent provided in Section 1 of OMA, to give “citizens advance notice of and the right to attend all meeting at which any business of a public body is discussed or acted upon in any way.” The PAC stated that “OMA does not permit a public body to make and implement a decision concerning a substantive matter, such as masking guidelines in public schools for student and staff during a pandemic, without providing the general subject matter of that decision on the meeting agenda.”
     
    This PAC opinion serves as a reminder that public bodies are less likely to attract OMA complaints if they err on the side of transparency, especially when it comes to more controversial issues in which there is a high level of public interest.
     
    This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.