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Geneva library board disagrees with PAC, says it will release closed session minutes

GENEVA – Geneva library board members said they would support the release of closed meeting minutes and audio tape Thursday, but the majority plan to protest a nonbinding decision by the attorney general’s office that they held an illegal closed meeting last year.

At issue is a complaint by the Kane County Chronicle that the library board violated the Open Meetings Act on Oct. 24.

Earlier this month, the Illinois Attorney General Public Access Counselor issued a nonbinding decision that the board could not meet in closed session to discuss potential litigation, only that which is probable or immanent.

The public access counselor determined that the board’s remedy is to release the minutes and audio tape of that portion of the closed meeting.

Board member Steve Andersson read a statement disagreeing with the public access counselor’s decision, which the board majority supported, to send to the attorney general.

In short, Andersson said the Open Meetings Act allows public bodies to close a meeting for pending litigation or an administrative tribunal. 

“This has become a case of a teachable moment,” Andersson said.

Andersson said the public access counselor did not include itself – an administrative tribunal – as the reason why the board met in closed session – to meet with its attorney to discuss how to respond to a public access counselor’s appeal notice.

“The PAC does not consider itself part of the litigation process,” Andersson said. “It seemed to forget its own role. It was not a future lawsuit, but the PAC administration process of how to respond.”

Andersson said the board had a right to meet in closed session to discuss confidential material with its attorney outside of the public view “to make sure we were doing it right.”

Shivers disagreed, noting she voted against going into closed session that night because she did not agree the meeting should be closed. 

Shivers said she agreed the information should be released, but not that the board should send a message to the public access counselor.

“The opinion is incorrect when applied to the facts in this,” Andersson said. “Our Geneva library board is a steadfast supporter of the Open Meetings Act ... and fully supports transparency in government and supports the Attorney General Public Access Counselor.”

Andersson said that does not mean the public access counselor always gets it correct.

“Lack of experience leads to mistakes,” Andersson said, referring to the public access counselor’s four years of experience when compared to the “80 years of legal experience sitting in this room.”

Andersson was referring to the fact that he is an attorney, as are other members of the library board, including Pat Lord, Shivers and Travis Ketterman.

Andersson said the state’s public access counselor are understaffed amid many requests for review by the public and media.

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