Watchdogs press park district on missing minutes
The Edgar County Watchdogs called out the Kankakee Valley Park District (KVPD) for failing to approve meeting minutes dating back to April 2016 yesterday.
The article, posted in Illinois Leaks, was a follow up on a previous article exposing the KVPD's lack of approved minutes.
As part of the watchdog group's investigation into the issue, John Kraft submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the KVPD. Executive Director Dayna Heitz responded and told Kraft that the minutes had not been approved.
In an exchange of emails, Kraft sought clarification and asked if the board had not approved any minutes since April 25, 2016. After Heitz affirmed that no minutes had been approved since that date, Kraft reminded her of Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) 5 ILCS 120/2.06(b).
"A public body shall approve the minutes of its open meeting within 30 days after that meeting or at the public body's second subsequent regular meeting, whichever is later."
Heitz responded, "They are not transcribed as of yet. Once completed, then they will go on an agenda. I can let you know when they are approved if you like."
While Heitz told Kraft that the meeting minutes had not been approved, Park Commissioner J.J. Hollis took to social media and posted “we approve minutes from the previous month at every meeting.” When questioned by Kraft, Hollis did not change or clarify his statement, even when told that the executive director's information contradicted his comment.
In addition to the meeting minutes, the KVPD website is also missing the 2017 meeting schedule and agendas. Without a schedule of meetings and the accompanying agendas, it appears that the board may not have held a meeting since December 2016. The only meeting notice was for a special meeting held on Dec. 12 regarding the intent to sell $2 million in general obligation limited park bonds. The minutes to that meeting were not available on the KVPD website, either.
The KVPD website did show that the district released a press release on Dec. 23 announcing layoffs and reduced services to complete the fiscal year. Some positions were eliminated. The main target of the reductions was the RecCenter, which saw reduced hours and staff. Without meeting agendas and minutes, the discussions and events that led up to this decision by the board remain unavailable to the public.
While the board meetings and minutes are not posted, there has been at least one meeting since December. The Daily Journal reported on a KVPD board meeting held on Jan. 9. The park district bonds were discussed at that meeting. The newspaper reported that the Kankakee School District 111 was considering lending KVPD approximately $900,000 so it could hire back 10 of the 16 employees laid off the previous month.
Illinois Leaks reported in its Feb. 21 article that the loan from the school district to the park district had not been approved. In the same article, the watchdogs asked how the bills are being paid by the park district without a record of the proceedings.
"One could even argue this failure to approve meeting minutes violates the Park District Code, Section 4-6, where it explicitly states that nobody can create a debt, liability, claim or obligation on or for the park district unless and until authority to do so has been approved at a meeting of the commissioners and the decision (approval) duly recorded in a record of the meeting’s proceedings," the article said. "How can anything be duly recorded in a record of proceedings if the commissioners won’t approve the minutes?"
The article also pointed out that the KVPD had violated the open meetings act if the posted meetings in 2016 had been held, but the minutes had not been approved and made available to the public. The watchdog group, known for its tenacity, is unlikely to drop the issue of the missing meeting minutes until they are posted on the KVPD website.
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893 West Station Street
Kankakee, IL 60901