Public Access Opinion 18-015

Closed Session Discussion of Elected Officials Duties and Salaries

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 18-015
Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The McClean County Board’s Finance Committee (Committee) violated OMA by improperly discussing the duties and salaries of elected officials in closed session. On June 6, 2018, the Committee held a closed meeting using the Section 2(c)(1) exception in OMA, which allows a public body to hold closed meetings to discuss “the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body.” The problem, however, is that the Committee used this exception to discuss the duties and salaries of two elected officials – the county coroner and the county auditor. The Illinois Attorney General has previously held, in a binding opinion, that Section 2(c)(1) does not authorize closed session discussions concerning occupants of public office. PAO 17-13.

In response, the Committee argued that countywide elected or appointed department heads meet the definition of an employee for purposes of OMA, but the PAC was not swayed by this argument. First, the PAC noted that Section 2(c)(3) of OMA permits closed session discussion of “the discipline, performance or removal of the occupant of a public office, when the public body is given power to remove the occupant under law or ordinance” and the Committee did not use this exception. Second, the PAC noted that Section 2(d) of OMA defines public office for purposes of Section 2 as “a position created by or under the Constitution or laws of this State, the occupant of which is charged with the exercise of some portion of the sovereign power of this State” and that the offices of county coroner and county auditor are both created under the Illinois Constitution. Because the county coroner and county auditor are not public employees, the PAC held that the Committee violated OMA by improperly using the Section 2(c)(1) exception to enter closed session. The PAC ordered the Committee to make publicly available the verbatim recording of the June 6, 2018 closed session meeting.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.