Limestone Township accused of violating special meeting statute
The Limestone Township Board went ahead with a special meeting on Sept. 25 despite giving only a day's notice that it would be held, which violates the state's Township Code, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) argued in a recent Illinois Leaks article.
The group disagreed with the attorney who allowed the meeting to proceed, adding that the Open Meetings Act and Township Code are clear. The attorney reportedly cited a statute that governs board meetings, but that statute is "commonly abused in order to circumvent the law," the ECW's Kirk Allen wrote.
"Limestone Township held a meeting last night and it is being reported to us that the attorney said everything was legal and they could have their meeting," Allen wrote. "No proof, just some hired attorney that apparently has little knowledge of the Open Meetings Act and the Township Code."
The watchdog group previously called on the township to cancel the meeting to be sure it abides by the code, which requires that the public receive notice of a special meeting no fewer than 14 and no more than 45 days before it's scheduled to take place.
The agenda for the special meeting included accepting Supervisor Dennis Rettke's letter of resignation and appointing an interim supervisor. Rettke's resignation followed public complaints about the Limestone Township Highway commissioner, the watchdogs reported.
The state law regarding board meetings permits boards to meet beyond their regularly scheduled times but additional rules take effect, Allen wrote.
"Lawyers have twisted this specific phrase and applied meaning to it that simply is not contained in the law," Allen wrote. "No disagreement that they can meet at other times as they determine, but we all know they can’t determine to meet at times that violated notice to the public under the law."
Additionally, the statute outlines that board members must be notified of the meetings at least 48 hours in advance. That doesn't replace the mandate to give the public at least two weeks' notice ahead of a special meeting, Allen wrote.
"Attorneys regularly see that 48hr reference regarding a meeting and think that means public notice requirement," he wrote. "Wrong! The law states that 48hrs notice is to the board members! Notice to the public is specific in the Township Code for Special meetings and is not overruled by [the board meeting rules]. Lawyers are wrong if that is their position."
Lastly, Allen wrote that just because a meeting is sufficiently open to the public doesn't mean the board covered all of its bases.
"All meetings of the township board shall be open to the public as provided in the Open Meetings Act," he wrote. "AND, they shall be compliant with all applicable sections of the law to include the Township code. So in summary, any special meeting of the Township is subject to the Special Meeting statute under the township code, even when the attorney says it does not apply.
"That’s our [non-legal] opinion, and we welcome any attorney to prove us wrong!"