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updated: 6/29/2012 7:22 PM

Elk Grove Village Board accused of violating Open Meetings Act

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  • Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson

      Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson

 
By David Conway
dconway@dailyherald.com

A Villa Park woman is filing a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General's office over an Elk Grove Village board vote to legalize video gambling.

According to Kathy Gilroy, the vote violated the Open Meetings act -- a charge Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson denied vehemently.

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A Frequently Asked Questions document on the Attorney General's website says a "public body cannot take action or make any decision with regard to items or topics not on the agenda of a regular meeting."

While the agenda for the June 19 village board meeting does not make specific reference to the issue of video gambling, Johnson said the topic was covered under the mayor's report, an item that was listed on the agenda.

Gilroy, who came to the meeting to oppose the legalization of video gambling, said anything short of explicitly listing the topic on the agenda does not qualify.

Upon first arriving to the meeting, she had asked for an agenda from a clerk. When she saw no mention of video gambling, she asked a clerk if the matter would be discussed at the meeting. The clerk, she said, told her that it would not be. It was only after seeing other people whom she knew were there to speak about video gambling that she stayed for the meeting.

"You wonder why they did it -- why was it not on the agenda?" Gilroy said. "Was it so people didn't come to speak? I don't know."

Johnson said the intent of the law was more than satisfied by the village. He said the discussion of the topic under the mayor's report dates back to the board's second meeting in May, and that at each meeting he made clear how the issue would proceed at the next meeting.

He said both the meeting at which the vote was held and an earlier fact-finding meeting at which members of the public were invited to voice their opinions on the issue were well publicized, not only by the mayor at board meetings but also in the press.

"Obviously, the public was well aware," Johnson said. "I don't think you could have had a more publicized meeting on a local level."

He also said that Gilroy's presence at the meeting indicated that she, too, had effectively been informed about the board's intent to move on the issue that day.

While unable to speak to the specifics of this case, Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, encouraged members of the public to follow up if they had any concerns.

"Generally speaking, a public body needs to have, in order to effectively vote, needs to have that information on the agenda," Bauer said. "We would encourage anyone who witnessed this to file a complaint with the public access counselor's office."

A person seeking review of a potential Open Meetings Act violation has 60 days to file a complaint with the public access counselor. Gilroy said she filed a complaint June 25. The public access counselor has seven days to say whether further investigation is warranted. Gilroy hasn't yet heard anything, but she said she may have failed to format the complaint correctly.

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