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Article updated: 11/29/2012 2:33 PM

Attorney general rejects complaints from ex-cop about Island Lake's Facebook page

By Russell Lissau

The Illinois attorney general's office has rejected a complaint that Island Lake's Facebook page violates state law and the First Amendment.

Wayne Schnell, a former part-time Island Lake police officer who blogs about politics and activities in the town, filed the complaint this summer.

According to the two-page ruling from the attorney general's public access bureau, Schnell said his free speech rights were violated because comments he made on the Facebook page were deleted.

Schnell also alleged the page violates the state Open Meetings Act, which ensures discussions of public business by elected officials are held openly.

Trustee Shannon Fox has overseen the page since September 2011. People who follow the page have been able to add comments directly on the page's wall and after postings.

Schnell has complained on his blog about his comments being removed from the Facebook page. He's also been warned about violating the page's terms of service, a Daily Herald review revealed.

In an Oct. 31 written ruling acquired Tuesday by the Daily Herald, Assistant Attorney General Lindsay Lavine dismissed both of Schnell's allegations.

The Open Meetings Act applies to government websites maintained by full-time staff members, and the Facebook page doesn't qualify, Lavine wrote.

The law wasn't designed to extend to websites that are neither controlled nor maintained by a village board or a different government agency, Lavine wrote.

As for Schnell's free-speech concern, Lavine wrote that Schnell didn't provide factual evidence of a violation as required by the Open Meetings Act.

In an email Tuesday afternoon, Schnell said his "fervor to fight censorship hasn't wavered.

"The First Amendment was created to allow, even ensure that citizens question their government," said Schnell, of McHenry County. "When government is allowed to censor its people, we all lose."

Fox insisted comments on the Facebook page only are deleted if they violate rules for decorum listed there. Even so, the page is designed to share information with the public, not to be a public forum, she said.

"I will continue to make every effort to ensure our residents (have) a civilized village Facebook experience," Fox said in an email.

Island Lake Mayor Debbie Herrmann was glad Schnell's complaints were dismissed. Without naming anyone, she criticized the "personal attacks" some people have made on the Facebook page.

"It's supposed to be a positive vehicle of information, and that's how we want to utilize it," Herrmann said.

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