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updated: 7/21/2011 5:33 PM

Months later, Island Lake adds minutes to website

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Following inquiries from the Daily Herald, the official summaries of three months' worth of Island Lake village board meetings have been posted on the town's website.

Six sets of minutes, as the summaries are known, were posted Wednesday at villageofislandlake.com. They cover meetings from February, March and April.

Before Wednesday, minutes from only two meetings from 2011 were available for online review, both from January.

Trustee Shannon Fox emailed Mayor Debbie Herrmann and Village Clerk Jen Gomez about the missing minutes Wednesday after she was informed by the Daily Herald the list had not been updated in months. By the end of the day, the summaries were online.

The village isn't legally required to post minutes online but has been doing so for a few years. After a similar lag in early 2010, officials pledged to update the minutes more regularly.

After this week's additions, Fox said village leaders "will try to do a better job of keeping the website updated."

"Meeting minutes are important because (they are) a way for residents to keep check on what their elected officials are doing without having to attend meetings," she said.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act requires every public body to record printed minutes of meetings. Any government agencies that have websites maintained by full-time employees legally must post meeting minutes online within seven days of the approval of the documents, the law states.

Island Lake's website is not maintained by a full-time village employee, however. A private information-technology specialist oversees the site, officials have said.

As a result, the town is not legally required to digitally publish the minutes, which are drafted each meeting by the village clerk.

Island Lake residents have gone months without seeing fresh minutes appear online before. In early 2010, trustees and residents complained about missing minutes, prompting inquiries by the Daily Herald. Shortly afterward, the documents started appearing on the website more regularly, and that pattern continued for the rest of 2010.

The minutes posted this week all were approved by the board at a June 16 meeting.

Many of the meetings covered by the latest minutes were controversial, with trustees and Herrmann feuding over a variety of issues.

Village leadership also saw a significant personnel change in April when Clerk Pam Miller, who was elected in 2009, quit midterm.

Miller was officially replaced in June by Gomez, who had been the deputy clerk and filled in at meetings after Miller's departure.

Trustee Connie Mascillino said the "chaos" in village hall kept the minutes from promptly appearing online.

"There (are) a lot of irons in the fire, and some of them are hotter than others," she said.

Fox acknowledged trustees have been dealing with a lot of business, but she also said residents should have easy access to a record of the public's business.

"The village is negligent when we don't give the public the opportunity to easily review our work," Fox said.

Trustee Thea Morris said posting minutes online is an important aspect of open government.

"We need to do a better job of being transparent," Morris said. "And that's a vehicle in which we can be transparent."

Gomez said posting minutes on the website will become part of her job.

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