Public Body Violated OMA By Requiring Members of the Public to Submit Questions for Public Comment On a Specific Form Hours Before a Meeting

On January 11, 2016, the Illinois Attorney General issued an informal, unbinding opinion finding that the Board of Trustees of the Village of Cahokia violated the Open Meetings Act when it did not allow a citizen to speak because she had not submitted her question on a form hours ahead of the meeting.

The Open Meetings Act provides that persons must be allowed to address public officials at a public meeting under rules established by the public body. The Village of Cahokia adopted a rule that any person wishing to make a public comment at a meeting had to fill out a specific form available at the Clerk’s office by noon on the day of the meeting (seven hours in advance).

The form required citizens to provide their names, addresses, phone numbers, and the subject of their comment, or a list of questions they planned to ask. The Attorney General determined that the rules were overly restrictive and might have a chilling effect on speech. The A.G. noted that the Village had “mis-interpreted OMA’s public comment requirement as providing for a controlled question and answer session, as opposed to a forum where each person may speak his or her mind.”

Please contact Jeff Goelitz or Kerry Burnet with your OMA inquiries. 

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