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updated: 4/17/2012 11:37 PM

Island Lake trustees broke open meetings law, state says

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  • Trustee Laurie Rabattini

      Trustee Laurie Rabattini

 
 

Island Lake trustees violated the Open Meetings Act in December by privately discussing financial business that should have been debated publicly, the state attorney general's office has ruled.

In a nonbinding opinion obtained Tuesday by the Daily Herald, the office requested the board publicly release the minutes from the closed-door session at which the violation took place. Officials have since taken that step, said Julie Tappendorf, an attorney for the village.

No further action will be taken against the board.

Village officials are committed to following the Open Meetings Act, Tappendorf said.

"There was no intentional or deliberate conduct here," she said in an email. "Discussions sometimes go off topic."

The attorney general's public access bureau investigates possible open-meeting violations.

The complaint about Island Lake's meeting was filed with that office in January by Trustee Laurie Rabattini. It concerned a Dec. 8, 2011 executive session.

Rabattini attended the discussion, as did Mayor Debbie Herrmann, the other trustees and other village officials.

Under state law, government business must be discussed publicly except in very specific circumstances, such as personnel matters or pending litigation.

According to the March 29 ruling from Assistant Attorney General Amanda M. Lundeen, Rabattini complained the board discussed village finances and whether the town could afford to hire an additional police officer in the closed-door meeting, among other related issues.

Much of that discussion did not concern "specific employees of the public body" as required by law, Lundeen wrote. As a result, it violated the Open Meetings Act, she wrote.

Trustees did talk about a specific employee at one point, however, and references to that worker have been redacted from the minutes released to the public and the media.

Those minutes, which summarize the roughly 40-minute talk, were posted at village hall on April 12, Tappendorf said.

Rabattini also complained the board failed to list the reasons it was holding a closed-door meeting on the agenda for that night's gathering. Lundeen said the agenda did not violate the law, citing an appellate court ruling that stated a board is not required to provide such an explanation on an agenda.

Despite questioning the legality of the discussion, Rabattini did not excuse herself from the session. When asked in an email why she didn't leave the room, Rabattini said she asked attorney David Silverman if the meeting was legal and was told it was.

Tappendorf took issue with Rabattini's behavior.

"It is interesting to note that Trustee Rabattini not only attended the entire executive session but also actively participated in all of the discussions that took place in executive session," Tappendorf said. "She certainly could have excused herself from the executive session. Instead, she stayed, participated and then filed a complaint shortly thereafter."

Rabattini has been a frequent critic of Herrmann and some fellow trustees since joining the board in 2009. She was among the trustees Herrmann sued last year after board members sought to switch law firms and take other bureaucratic steps against the mayor's wishes.

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