Agenda; Sufficiently Informing the Public of the Nature of the Business Being Conducted Before Taking Final Action
A school board met in closed session to discuss the possibility of entering into a separation agreement with the then-Superintendent. The Superintendent signed and dated the agreement during the closed meeting. During a subsequent closed meeting, six of seven board members signed but did not date the agreement. Next, the Board posted the agenda for a subsequent open meeting on its website, listing an item to approve the resolution and separation agreement between the Superintendent and Board. The agenda identified the Superintendent by name and contained a link to the full text of the separation agreement. At the open meeting, the Board read the agenda item and full text of the resolution, conducted a roll call vote, and approved the resolution and agreement. The Attorney General found the Board violated OMA, stating that by signing the agreement in closed session the Board took final action, and the Board did not adequately inform the public of the nature of the matter under consideration. The circuit court reversed this decision and the appellate court affirmed.
The Attorney General then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which agreed with the lower courts and found in favor of the Board. The Court held that under Section 2(e) of OMA, a public recital must take place at the open meeting before the matter is voted upon, and the recital must announce the nature of the matter being considered. Adequate detail to identify the particular issue is required, but this does not require an explanation of its terms or significance. The Court also held that here, reading the agenda item and full text of the resolution before taking a roll call vote satisfied OMA. The Court further clarified that final action does not, as the Attorney General claimed, require a board to provide a detailed explanation about the significance or impact of the proposed final action.
The decision means that during a validly conducted closed session, board members may continue to express their individual positions without fear they are taking impermissible final action. Activities in closed session like taking a straw poll or signing a document are permissible provided the board later takes final action in a properly conducted open session.
Cassandra Black, IASB Law Clerk