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Public Access Opinion 21-006

Duty to Make Verbatim Recordings of Closed Sessions of Committee Meetings

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 21-006
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.