August 16, 2012
By: Adam Dauksas
Last month, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 4687, which amends the Open Meetings Act in two significant ways.
First, beginning January 1, 2013, a board of education’s (or other public entity’s) agenda must set forth the general subject matter of any resolution or ordinance that will be the subject of final board action during the meeting to which that agenda pertains. (Note: an earlier version of House Bill 4687, which was scrapped in the Senate, would have required a board’s agenda to be “sufficiently descriptive” to give the public reasonable notice of not only items set for final action, but also those items that would simply be under consideration). This change is aimed at eliminating the practice of using vague agenda item descriptions, such as one word statements (e.g. “Budget”). The more descriptive a board is with respect to its agenda items, the more likely it will be in compliance with this new legislation.
Second, this new legislation also requires that a board of education and other public entities have at least one copy of their notice and agenda “continuously available” for public review during the 48 hours immediately preceding its meeting. Simply posting the board’s notice and agenda continuously on the District’s website within the requisite time frame will satisfy this requirement.
Most school districts are already complying with this new requirement as the Open Meetings Act currently requires that an agenda be posted at the District’s principal office and at the location where its meeting will be held at least 48 hours in advance. However, as a result of a recent court case involving an Illinois municipality that posted a meeting agenda in a facility that was locked on the weekends and thus, not accessible to the public, the Act was amended to require that the agenda be “continuously available.”
Should you have any questions regarding the Open Meetings Act or its recent amendments, please do not hesitate to contact Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, Chtd.