Public Access Opinion 24-003

Taking Final Action in Closed Session

Open Meetings Act - OMA
Case: Public Access Opinion 24-003
Date: Friday, March 1, 2024

On January 9, 2024, Requestor submitted a Request for Review to the Public Access Counselor (PAC) alleging that at its October 16, 2023 meeting, the Evanston City Council (City) improperly took final action during closed session to authorize an exclusive representation agreement with Jones Lang LaSalle Midwest, LLC (JLL).

On January 19, 2024, the PAC contacted City, requesting a detailed written answer to the allegations along with unredacted copies of City’s October 16, 2023 closed session minutes and verbatim recording. The evidence showed that in closed session on October 16, 2023, the City Manager asked City to authorize an exclusive representation agreement with JLL in order for City to execute the agreement with JLL. Members were polled and a majority approved execution of the agreement with JLL. Then, still in closed session, the City’s Mayor stated that City staff had been directed to execute the agreement. Upon returning to open session, City voted to adjourn the meeting without taking final action on the exclusive agreement.

City claimed that the City Manager executed the contract on his own and that it was not subject to final action because the contract was less than $25,000. However, the closed session verbatim recording showed that City Manager expressly sought and obtained City’s approval to enter the agreement. In addition, Section 2(e) of OMA does not limit the requirement that public bodies take final action openly to those final actions that concern expenditures of a certain amount.

The PAC concluded that City violated section 2(e) of OMA by taking final action during the closed session of its October 16, 2023 meeting. The PAC directed City to reconsider and take final action on the exclusive representation agreement with JLL in the open session of meeting after sufficient public recital in accordance with Section 2(e) of OMA.

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