CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) -
We the People is a phrase that is suppose to have meaning in our government, as in We The People are in charge, not the public officials elected and/or appointed to represent us.
All too often we find public officials who for what ever reason fail to recognize that they work "for" the people. Last night's Clark County Park District (Mill Creek) board meeting was yet another example of public officials and their attorney being totally wrong and out of control.
The meeting was a special meeting that only had two items listed, which was to go into executive session and then under new business: Status of Executive Director. (Click here to read the agenda from that meeting)
This meeting was attended by over 30 people of which many of them, myself included wanted to address the board during public comment. For me it was to ask why the board was not seeking a criminal investigation into the submission of an invoice by Francis & Associates, an invoice which was for goods in which not a single set of minutes reflects any vote was take asking for work from this firm. When confronted during the previous meeting, not a single board member authorized it. In fact, they made a point that it was not going to be paid since no one asked for the work. More on this matter in another article.
The board went into executive session and stayed there for approximately 2 1/2 hours. When the 30+ people filtered back into the room they opened the meeting and voted to table the status of the Director. The next motion was to adjourn the meeting. Upon that action, John Kraft asked the board if they were going to have a public comment, and immediately board member Yargus and his daughter, the board attorney Kate Yargus, said no, it's not on the agenda. Even after being advised they were required to have a public comment they voted to adjourn the meeting.
It was upon that action, after refusing to allow over 30 citizens to have an opportunity to address their government body that John Kraft stood up and read them the statute in which a citizen can make an arrest, which he did in fact make the arrest of the board members.
(725 ILCS 5/107-3) (from Ch. 38, par. 107-3)
Sec. 107-3. Arrest by private person.
Any person may arrest another when he has reasonable grounds to believe that an offense other than an ordinance violation is being committed. (Source: Laws 1963, p. 2836.)
They refused to follow the open meetings act and allow the public their right to speak!
Specifically: (5 ILCS 120/2.06) (from Ch. 102, par. 42.06)
Sec. 2.06. Minutes; right to speak.
(g) Any person shall be permitted an opportunity to address public officials under the rules established and recorded by the public body.
The failure of the board to allow the public a chance to address the board, even after being informed they were required to, means they have violated the open meetings act. That particular violation does not qualify as an exemption listed as it pertains to being guilty of a class C Misdemeanor. That means their actions constitute a Class C Misdemeanor.
5 ILCS 120/4) (from Ch. 102, par. 44) Sec. 4. Any person violating any of the provisions of this Act, except subsection (b), (c), (d), or (e) of Section 1.05, shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. (Source: P.A. 97-504, eff. 1-1-12; 97-1153, eff. 1-25-13.)
While Mr. Kraft was reading them the arrest citation and asking for their submission into custody, the attorney felt she had the right to tell all the board members to leave. While those two discussed the issue at length I was on the phone requesting a deputy be dispatched to the Park Office to facilitate the arrests.
(725 ILCS 5/107-5) (from Ch. 38, par. 107-5)
Sec. 107-5. Method of arrest.
(a) An arrest is made by an actual restraint of the person or by his submission to custody.
(b) An arrest may be made on any day and at any time of the day or night.
(c) An arrest may be made anywhere within the jurisdiction of this State.
(d) All necessary and reasonable force may be used to effect an entry into any building or property or part thereof to make an authorized arrest.
(Source: Laws 1963, p. 2836.)
Upon the arrival of the Sheriff, Jerry Parsley, I went outside to speak with him one-on-one since I made the call to 911. I have to say I was totally impressed with the professionalism and manner in which this Sheriff conducted himself during this investigation. When I was finished explaining the events that took place he spoke with Mr. Kraft.
Sheriff Parsley was well aware of a citizen's right to do what we did based on the law. He had no questions pertaining to that action. He also agreed that what the board did was in fact a violation of the open meetings act. He has asked that John and myself file a criminal complaint along with a copy of the video so he can file his report and forward it to the appropriate authorities.
At this point he was in charge of those board members and he went and spoke with the Board Chairman and their attorney. He advised them that they violated the Open Meetings Act by not allowing the citizens their right to speak. He explained that they must provide that opportunity at all meetings and suggested that they review the Act and ensure this does not happen again.
After he informed us of his comments to the Chairman and Attorney, we thanked him for taking care of the matter and assured him we would get him the reports and video in a couple days. We informed him that this was not an action that we wanted to take, but after the fact we are glad we did because there were members of the public present that were ready to take matters into their own hands from the comments we were hearing during the 2 1/2 hour wait for the board to finish their executive session. The refusal of the board to allow anyone to speak only escalated that citizen anger, which is not the answer.
As soon as we get the video uploaded you will be able to see for yourself that this matter was handled just as the law permits. Sadly for the board, they got horrible legal advice and it was very clear this attorney has no clue about the Open Meetings Act nor the citizen's right. She did finally acknowledge that once given the citation for the violation she would in fact ask the board members who refused to stay to come back into the room. Sadly for her that was a lie. Once she knew the citation, and I asked her to do as she said she would, she claimed the members in question were no longer here and that they left. No, they did not leave as they were outside the door in the garage and outside the building waiting on the sheriff.
A pathetic attempt at claiming the public had no right to speak at the meeting fell on deaf ears as she was not even reading the law. In fact, her insistence on John providing the statute to justify the arrest was complied with once she stopped talking, yet for her it was OK to read from a "handbook" in an attempt to backtrack and cover for the illegal actions of the board.
Pathetic because the very handbook she is reading from is just that, a handbook. What she read had NOTHING to do with the public's right to speak at a public meeting. It was a feeble attempt to intimidate us to think it applied to the situation at hand. It did not!
What is listed on the Illinois Association of Park Districts Web site, which printed the book she was reading from, is a section of frequently asked questions.
What are the penalties that a public body and its officers may incur if it violates the Open Meetings Act?
Criminal Penalties: Under the law, a State’s Attorney may bring a criminal action for a violation of the Open Meetings Act. A violation of OMA is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
She was advised of the citation that was violated, advised of the citizen's right to make the arrest that was made, and this legal scholar felt it appropriate to tell all the board members to just leave! This is the same attorney that has been collecting $800 EVERY month from the board in which her Father sits as a board member!
Furthermore, the attorney may have been a "Party To A Crime" as the Illinois Criminal Code defines it:
720 ILCS 5/5-2 --- Parties To Crime
"...either before or during the commission of an offense, and with the intent to promote or facilitate that commission, he or she solicits, aids, abets, agrees, or attempts to aid that other person in the planning or commission of the offense."
What they also fail to realize is that every person in that room that wanted to speak had their Federal Civil Rights violated. Their 1st amendment right was stripped from them by the board and its attorney!