Candidates fielded questions of government transparency at last month's candidate forum, and now residents are challenging that transparency.
The Attorney General's public access office is looking into potential Open Meetings Act (OMA) violations by the vilage's board of trustees.
A resident filed a request for review on Mar. 24, stating that the trustees had gone into closed session specifically to discuss the "sale of property" after their Jan. 17, Feb. 7, Feb. 21, Mar. 7 and Mar. 21 meetings. The request alleges that trustee Mark Boyle's remarks at the implied that trustees were meeting with developers in closed session to discuss redevelopment strategies.
A staff member with the Public Access office sent an advisement letter on April 5 requesting meeting minutes or recordings of the closed sessions. After the village's response deadline (seven working days) has passed, the Public Access office will either make a determination or request further information to make their decision.
Mayor Joe Broda said he could not comment at this time. Patch will update this story as more information is available.
What topics can public bodies discuss in closed meetings? Read the full list of exemptions (starts in Section P.A. 96‑1378).
UPDATED: April 27, 9:30 a.m.
The village confirmed receipt of the request for review on April 8. On April 15 an attorney representing the village requested a 21-day extension to provide requested materials to the Public Access office. However, the extension was denied.
The public access office has yet to confirm they've made a decision on the request for review.
UPDATED: May 24, 12 p.m.
The public access office ruled that the village board should release portions of closed meeting minutes on the dates previously mentioned. While talks focused on village-owned property and possible incentive packages in their sale, they found discussions did not directly relate to setting a sale price.
Village attorney Paul Keller explained in a statement to the public access office, dated April 21, that the village owned several parcels of land in the downtown area and were exploring various avenues to sell the property. Keller believed the discussion topics were compliant with OMA laws under two exemptions that allow closed meeting for discussions related to the sale or leasing of property, and setting a price.
“While the discussion of this matter extended over six separate meetings, the six meetings must be viewed as one continuing conversation concerning the same topic,” he wrote. “The discussion in all of the meetings collectively, has been for the purpose of providing the village board with information regarding the various conditions, options and factors affecting the value of village owned property.”
But resident MaryLynn Zajdel believed the board took some liberties with the exemptions’ language. She filed the request for review with the assistance of Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center, and its director, Terry Pastika.
“The discussions of how to purchase property to assemble it and sell it to a developer with financial incentives, if in fact that is what happened, is outside the appropriate scope of the exception,” Zajdel said in a statement.
The public access office agreed. In the determination letter from an assistant attorney general on May 23, they recognized that the village board did conduct discussions on items that affect the value of property, but ultimately did not relate directly to setting a price.
“I think this determination by the Attorney General is indicative of a broader problem with transparency in Lisle, certainly dating back to summer 2009 when the discussions regarding Navistar and TIF incentives were taking place in a series of closed session meetings,” Zajdel stated.
The public access office determined that no final actions had been taken on the closed meeting items.