Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen's plan to make the hiring of top-level directors more confidential ran into a possible legal obstacle Wednesday when the state's attorney's office said proposed private vetting meetings can't be unannounced.
Lauzen had hoped to create a multilevel hiring task force that would meet unannounced and in private to review candidates for department head positions.
The vast majority of the county board would not be informed of the candidate's identity and qualifications until 24 hours before the final vote.
Lauzen brought that plan forward to eliminate internal leaks about the identities of applicants that already derailed Lauzen's initial selection for his administration's finance director.
Assistant State's Attorney Joe Lulves said Wednesday the meetings of the task force can still occur in private, but they can't be unannounced.
"Whenever the board creates a subsidiary body, regardless of what it's called, and regardless of who it's composed of, or the number of members, that body will be subject to the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act," Lulves told Lauzen's Executive Committee Wednesday. He said he is "preaching caution" about any meetings or communication that could fuel an ethics or legal complaint.
That includes avoiding emails, text messages and instant messages sent to the entire county board or board committee.
"To be absolutely direct about it, the direction and tongue given by the (Illinois Attorney General's) public access counselor involves a very liberal construction of the definitions in the law," Lulves said.
Lauzen told the committee he didn't want to discuss the impact of Lulves' input until the full county board meets next Tuesday.
"This is a very complicated issue," Lauzen said. "I won't characterize it beyond that."
Unless Lauzen has another idea in mind, the hiring changes the full board will vote on next week would require hiring task force meetings with a minimum of 48 hours advance public notice of the time, date and location of the meeting.
That would allow anyone to show up, see who attends those meetings and question people as they come and go. Then the hiring committee would have to vote to go into a closed-door executive session. Minutes and a recording of the discussion would be required. And both of those could possibly be obtained through a Freedom of Information request if the committee chose to release the recording and documents from the constraints of the executive session.
None of those requirements are different from what previous county board hiring committees have been subject to. The only change under the Lauzen plan would be the membership of the hiring committee. In the previous administration, members for hiring committees were selected by the chairman as needed. Lauzen's plan would spell out more specifically which county board and staff members should be on the committee.