IROQUOIS CO. (ECWd) -
We received a 'cease and desist" letter from Ronald Boyer today, stating he was representing the FIPHD, Doug Corbett, the Administrator, and the Iroquois County Health Department.
This letter alleges that we made defamatory statements about his clients, and that further statements would result in a lawsuit being filed against us.
The actual complaint his defendants had were statements made on March 18, 2013 in relation to "possible future prosecution for numerous alleged criminal acts by public officials."
Mr. Boyer goes on to state that we do not understand the relationship between the County Board, the Public Health Board, the legal requirements to contract for merchandise and services, the quorum of the Board of Health, or the nature of legitimate purchases by the Board of Health - and that our understanding of these is totally faulty.
Finally he stated this will result in a very large verdict against us.
I will attempt to address these issues one at a time, starting with:
- The claimed "defamatory" statements: Our March 18, 2013 article. We will not cease from publishing our opinions on what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what we believe will happen in the future. This information, and our opinions of it, come directly from the public documents supplied thru FOIA requests and obtained thru other publicly accessible means.
- Our understanding of the relationships: Whether purchases are deemed "legitimate" or not is not the question - we stated some were questionable, which they are.
The Iroquois County Board and the Ford County Board each appoint 4 members to the FIPHD Board. This makes up an 8 person FIPHD Board. Just because that board decides 4 people constitutes a quorum does not make it so.
You cannot make your own rules that trump the Open Meetings Act! A quorum of an 8 person board is 5, with 3 making a majority of a quorum, which makes any gathering of 3 board members that discuss public business, a meeting.
A meeting cannot be held without the meeting notice and meeting agenda posted at least 48 hours in advance - with the agenda required to be posted at the meeting location at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. The fact that a seat may or may not be vacant does not reduce the number of members required to make a quorum.
55 ILCS 5/5-25012)
(from Ch. 34, par. 5-25012)
Board of health.
Except in those cases where a board of 10 or 12 members is provided for as authorized in this Section, each county health department shall be managed by a board of health
consisting of 8 members
appointed by the president or chairman of the county board, with the approval of the county board.
Finally, read the statute dealing with Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, commonly refereed to as "SLAPP" lawsuits. The Illinois General Assembly recognized the need for public involvement, and their RIGHT to become involved, without the threat of lawsuits. Specifically, by enacting The Citizen Participation Act (735 ILCS 110), more commonly known as the Anti-SLAPP Act.
There has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits termed "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" in government or "SLAPPs" as they are popularly called.
The threat of SLAPPs significantly chills and diminishes citizen participation in government, voluntary public service, and the exercise of these important constitutional rights. This abuse of the judicial process can and has been used as a means of intimidating, harassing, or punishing citizens and organizations for involving themselves in public affairs... "
Another important point to make is this act provides for recovery of our attorney fees, should we prevail in the defense.
Edgar County Watchdogs ask the following questions:
When and where was the FIPHD Board of Health public meeting where a quorum of the board (that's 5 board members) voted on the action to authorize expenditure of public funds to send this letter?
In what capacity are you representing Mr. Corbett? Individually?