Jasper Co. (ECWd) -
Doing things the way you have always done them tends to be the biggest problem we see with public bodies, and it appears Jasper County is not much different than any of the other counties we have looked at. More often than not, the State's Attorneys are failing those public bodies with their lack of knowledge and unwillingness to learn laws that directly impact the duties of the county officers they are bound to represent. Our first example of such a failure was with this article where the State's Attorney had a citizen arrested. This follow up article confirmed the actions of the Clerk were not supported by law. We followed up with evidence of the State's Attorney trying to assist in getting guns sold through the Sheriff, which is also a violation of law in this article.
I believe the illegal gun sales as had the breaks put on it after discussion with the ATF, however, we cannot verify that as the State's Attorney Chad Miller is not answering any emails. Much like his refusal to talk to me after the last board meeting we attended, which brings us to this article.
The July 13th, 2017 Board meeting dealt with a vote on a resolution to allow ATV vehicles to operate on county roads. One board member who voted NO, did so by phone as he was not able to attend the meeting. He was the deciding vote that killed the resolution with a tie vote. The Board declared the motion had failed. However, we contend that particular NO vote was not in compliance with the Open Meetings Act and should not be counted, which indicates the resolution actually passed.
5 ILCS 120/7 (c) A majority of the public body may allow a member to attend a meeting by other means only in accordance with and to the extent allowed by rules adopted by the public body.
Considering the law outlines that a member may only attend by other means ("other means is by video or audio conferance), only in accordance with and to the extent allowed by rules adopted by the public body, a vote by phone without such rules is not legal.
A Freedom of Information Act request sent June 29th, 2017, for; "A copy of the adopted rules to allow a County Board member to attend a meeting by other means as required in the Open Meetings act - 5 ILCS 120/7(c)", has finally been responded to. The County responded in violation of the FOI Act because not only did they initially ignore my request, they only responded to another inquiry and sent me the County Board Rules well beyond the mandated time frame for responding to FOIA. I mention that fact because it is another indicator of this County's disregard for the law.
The adopted County Board rules make no mention of rules for members to attend by other means. Without such a set of rules, the allowing of a person to vote by phone was not in compliance with the law and their vote should not have been counted. Had the State's Attorney been familiar with the law he could have advised the board accordingly.
Download the audio of this portion of the meeting (here).
To the residents of Jasper County, based on the facts involved on the vote on the resolution to allow ATV's operate on County roads, we contend it passed as the vote was not 6:6, but rather 6 in favor, five opposed.
We also contend this is yet another failure of the State's Attorney in providing sound legal direction to his clients, the County Board - and we encourage interested citizens to take the issue up with either the Attorney General's Public Access Counselor, or thru the circuit court for a determination that this County ATV Ordinance actually passed.