Marshall, IL. (ECWd) -
Former Marshall, Illinois Mayor Camie Sanders was quoted in the newspaper as advocating sanctioning and disciplining of council members who speak out about closed session discussions.
This was directed at Mr. LeFever, who sent us a letter to publish several weeks ago about the City discussing purchasing the old Velsicol superfund site during an executive (closed) session of the Board.
The First Amendment to the Constitution protects the right to speak, and that right cannot be legislated away by any municipal board. It cannot happen.
The Illinois Attorney General has already written several opinions that any elected officer of a public body retains their First Amendment rights, even when it concerns those discussions occurring in a closed meeting.
- ". . . absent an express statutory provision so providing, public bodies do not have the power to sanction their members for disclosing the substance of deliberations conducted or actions taken at a closed meeting. . ."
- "any Ordinance authorizing sanctions would have an adverse impact upon open access to government"
- "the implication of such a power would clearly work to subvert the purpose of the Act (Open Meetings Act)"
- "the possibility of imposing sanctions against a member of the public body for disclosing what has occurred at a closed meeting would only serve as an obstacle to the effective enforcement of the Act, and a shield behind which opponents of open government could hide"
A public body cannot pass any ordinances or resolutions violative of Constitutionally protected rights.
We advise the Marshall City Council to avoid treading down the path Sanders wants to help you tread down.
We applaud Warren LeFever for his well-written words, and for warning the residents of Marshall, Illinois what may be coming their way. We consider that a duty of elected officials - an advanced warning to residents.
Additionally, a lawsuit against a councilman for discussing what was discussed in a closed session would certainly fail - that is what the TORT immunity is for, and what the Citizen Participation Act is for.