Lincolnshire sued over public comment during right-to-work discussion

 
 
Updated 2/22/2016 4:48 PM

Lincolnshire broke the law by creating political rules for public comments during a discussion of the town's controversial right-to-work proposal, according to a lawsuit.

Antioch resident Robert J. Gillengerten and Berwyn resident Bradley J. Levy claim the public-comment rules for the Dec. 14 village board meeting violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act and the state Constitution. The lawsuit was filed Feb. 16 in Lake County circuit court.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The plaintiffs are labor union members who attended the board meeting because of the right-to-work plan, which many people have criticized as anti-union. The board approved the ordinance, which now faces a legal challenge in federal court.

Anticipating a large crowd, Lincolnshire officials created special rules for public comment before the vote. No formal restrictions on public comment at board meetings existed previously.

According to the rules read aloud and approved that night, people had one hour to speak about the issue. Each side was given 30 minutes, with individual speakers given two minutes to express opinions.

The number of speakers -- and audience members -- opposing the plan greatly outnumbered the proponents.

Mayor Elizabeth Brandt eventually closed public comment even though more people wanted to speak against the proposal, including some standing in line behind a microphone set up for the session. Other people had raised their hands but weren't allowed to speak.

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Before moving on, Brandt asked if anyone else favoring the proposal wanted to speak, the lawsuit alleges.

The Open Meetings Act allows government boards to establish rules for public comment. According to the lawsuit from Gillengerten and Levy, those rules are supposed to be neutral in terms of content.

The village's rules for the meeting were discriminatory because they "explicitly allow for content-based exceptions to be granted at the sole discretion of the mayor and village board," the lawsuit read.

In the suit, Gillengerten and Levy asked for the village to be ordered to rescind the public comment rules.

Village Manager Brad Burke said he wasn't aware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.

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