ORLAND PARK, IL. (ECWd) -
The Open Meetings Act does not prohibit anyone from addressing the Board during public comment via videoconference. In the year 2014, public bodies and courts of law every single day hear testimony and argument from people attending meetings via videoconference. Things we marveled at in the science fiction realm in old Jetsons cartoons are now real and commonplace in the year 2014, when an expert on dangers to children who lives in New Jersey can easily speak to a public body in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois free of charge to the public body. Yet, the OPPL-BoT, which states in its mission statement posted to its website that it is all about embracing new technology, has spent the last seven months denying Dan Kleinman the right to speak during public comment at Board Meetings via FaceTime and an iPad provided by Megan Fox, one of the community members who wants the Board to listen to the expert opinion provided by Dan Kleinman.
In December 2013 when Kleinman first attempted to address the Board to directly counter specific lies told to the Board by Deborah Caldwell Stone and Barbara Jones of the ALA at the Board's 11/18/13 meeting, the Board denied Kleinman the right to speak despite the Board having no policy against videoconferencing and the OMA not prohibiting videoconferencing during public comment. You can watch this play out here (jump to the 2:10 video mark):
The Board then engaged in several months of illegal shenanigans where it attempted to write a policy specifically designed to block Kleinman from speaking during public comment, principally because these Board Members do not want to hear any opinions contrary to the ALA's talking points. The Board bungled the passage of these policies by casting votes during an illegal meeting on 2/12/14 and then attempting to salvage what they did by improperly voting on 3/17/14 to "ratify and affirm" the illegal things they did. Because of the illegality of all this, the public comment policy that still is in effect for this Board is actually the one that was in place back in December of 2013, which says nothing about blocking videoconferencing during public comment.
The slow-moving PAC office is still writing the letter of determination on the illegality of all the bungled vote-casting and ratifying and affirming that's been going on at the OPPL-BoT...but in the meantime Dan Kleinman is still trying to address the Board about the dangers to children in the Orland Park Public Library.
At the May Board Meeting, he attempted to speak via FaceTime and the Board's attorney improperly interrupted public comment and refused to recognize that Dan Kleinman had been signed up to speak. Kleinman was skipped over entirely and other people attending the meeting objected to this fact and demanding that Kleinman be given his turn to speak. The Board refused (which is a Request for Review now before the PAC).
On Monday 6/16/14, at the Board's June Meeting, Kleinman was present in the room on Megan Fox's iPad. It must be noted that the OPPL-BoT regularly has Board Members such as Cathy Lebert and Julie Anne Craig attending Board Meetings via telephone, where they are deemed "present" for votes and discussion even though their physical bodies are somewhere far away and the Board can only hear their voices. Yet, they are allowed to vote via telephone on matters that cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and impact tens of thousands of people. But, their faces can't even be seen and there is no real way of determining if it is even them on the phone. The Board has no problem with deeming them "present" via telephone though.
As you can see in this video taken on Monday, the OPPL-BoT provides unequal treatment to the public in this regard. Dan Kleinman is NOT treated as being present in the room even though he can be seen and heard via FaceTime. Megan Fox carried Kleinman into the meeting in her purse, where he was present on her iPad utilizing modern technology. An argument could be made that he was more "present" in this form than the disembodied voices of Cathy Lebert and Julie Anne Craig at previous Board meetings, since their faces could not be seen while telephone conferencing while Kleinman could be seen as well as heard via Megan Fox's FaceTime session on her iPad.
We believe that Dan Kleinman has possibly made history by being the first person to be denied the right to speak during public comment at a Board Meeting via FaceTime/Skype videoconferencing when it's been long established that public bodies can allow their Board Members to be present and even cast votes for matters of final action using telephonic and other "conferencing" means.