ILAG Public Access Counsel: South Jacksonville Violated OMA in August

By Benjamin Cox on November 10, 2021 at 8:26am

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office Public Access Counsel has determined that the Village of South Jacksonville violated the Open Meetings Act in August.

Pursuant to a Public Access Complaint filed by WLDS News on August 11th about the Village’s August 5th meeting, the Attorney General’s Office said in a determination late yesterday evening that Village Attorney Rob Cross improperly advised the board to close the open meeting and hear public comment from 4 members of the public behind closed doors under the guise of protections that protect boards and public bodies of discussing personnel matters in open meetings.

Cross and then-Village President Tyson Manker believed that the comments were all in concern of Manker’s unilateral firing of Village Police Chief Eric Hansell the previous week. According to the Attorney General’s PAC counsel, the four individuals wishing to speak on the matter had the intent of being heard in open session, and therefore closing the session violated the Open Meetings Act.

Citing previous binding decisions dating back to 2018. the Attorney General’s office advised Cross and the Village of South Jacksonville to refrain from requiring the public to address it in closed session in the future and that by voting to release the audio recordings and comments by board vote on October 7th, no further remedial action would be required. As of this morning, copies of those comments and the audio recordings of the comments had not been posted on either of the village’s websites found here and here.