City Clerk Violates Open Meetings Act

[UPDATE 7/16: The June 11 council meeting minutes are posted at the city site as of today, exactly three weeks late and two days after this letter appeared in the Chronicle. Under Item L, Citizen Comments: “Ms. Frances Loubere, 826 North 7th Street, DeKalb, spoke regarding the results of the recent 3rd Ward election.” (Of course, as in the May 29 citizens comments it was more than that. Ms. Loubere was also asking Wogen to clarify his positions and denounce the tactics of his backers.) Under Item M, Reports: “Ald. Wogen responded to comments made by Ms. Frances Loubere. He noted he would like to get past the issue, move on and do a good job for the 3rd Ward, and hopefully all can move forward together.” (Where’s the part where he said he was as pro-gay as Steve Kapitan?)]

[UPDATE 7/15: The June 11 council meeting minutes still have not been posted at the city’s website. I understand from Wogen Watch that requests for investigations have been made at the state’s attorney’s and attorney general’s offices.]

A snippet of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, regarding the taking and posting of meeting minutes:

(5 ILCS 120/2.06) (from Ch. 102, par. 42.06)
Sec. 2.06. Minutes.
[…]
(b) The minutes of meetings open to the public shall be available for public inspection within 7 days of the approval of such minutes by the public body. Beginning July 1, 2006, at the time it complies with the other requirements of this subsection, a public body that has a website that the full‑time staff of the public body maintains shall post the minutes of a regular meeting of its governing body open to the public on the public body’s website within 7 days of the approval of the minutes by the public body. Beginning July 1, 2006, any minutes of meetings open to the public posted on the public body’s website shall remain posted on the website for at least 60 days after their initial posting.

The minutes of the June 11 Committee-of-the-Whole and Regular City Council meetings were approved during the June 25 Regular meeting. As of today, these minutes are still not posted at the city’s website. This isn’t the first time, either.

8 thoughts on “City Clerk Violates Open Meetings Act”

  1. One of the reasons I reluctantly supported having an appointed clerk was to increase the efficiency of the office and perhaps have it up to date in understanding laws especially regarding both open meetings and freedom of information. In past years I have gotten opinions from the state on open meetings and foia but that doing so had little impact on the clerk’s office. You are justifiably complaining about lack of immediate access to some minutes. For real frustration, try to trace out some precedent in older minutes. A modern digitally based office would have such records readily available through search engines but at least the last time I was looking for a precedent the only way of finding it was to locate someone who roughly remembered when something occurred and then manually look it up. We’re in a digital age but the city clerk’s office is not.

  2. On a related issue…

    John A. Duerk
    XXXXXXXXXX
    XXXXXXXXXX
    DeKalb, IL 60115

    July 5, 2007

    Ms. Donna Johnson, City Clerk
    City of DeKalb
    200 South Fourth Street
    DeKalb, IL 60115

    RE: Follow-up on City Council Minutes

    Ms. Johnson:

    While I understand that the city uses Robert’s Rules of Order as a ‘guide’ for recording council minutes, your record of the public statements about Alderman Wogen is grossly inadequate and sanitized. Evidence of this is further demonstrated by your summary of Frances Loubere’s statement, and Alderman Wogen’s response, from the June 11th council meeting. You recorded a familiar (generic) line for her that does not capture the reason why she spoke, while providing him more space to defend himself:

    “L. Citizen Comments: Ms. Frances Loubere…..spoke regarding the results of the recent 3rd Ward election.”

    “M. Reports and Communications: Ald. Wogen responded to comments made by Ms. Frances Loubere. He noted he would like to get past the issue, move on and do a good job for the 3rd Ward, and hopefully all can move forward together.”

    You can hide behind the rules if you want, but everything you write down is a summary in and of itself. Ms. Loubere spoke about Alderman Wogen, but nobody would know this by reading your summary if they were to look back at the minutes years from now.

    What you have done is wrong. Am I surprised by your actions? Not really, as you can be seen hugging Alderman Wogen in a photograph that accompanies an April 18, 2007, Daily Chronicle article entitled “Wogen barely beats Kapitan.” Moreover, your position is further revealed when you lecture me to “forgive others for mistakes made,” as you did in your previous email. What does all of this mean? You support Alderman Wogen and you do not have a problem with what he did in the April election. Well, I do, and I refuse to remain silent.

    As for sharing my original email with other city officials, you deserve to be called-out because I believe you are complicit in the professional decline of public service.

    In struggle,

    John A. Duerk

  3. Considering the signficant investment taxpayers have made in the equipment, staffing and outsourcing to produce the digital video broadcasting of City meetings there is no excuse for not having accurate, up-to-date minutes.

    A few clicks on a mouse and the audio files can be separated from the digital recording of the meetings. A few more clicks and speech-to-text translations can be made. With use of a macroscript this can all be automated.

    There would be copy editing required, but if the spirit of open, honest government is genuine then citizens would be allowed to see “red line” editing as it occurs.

    It the intent is to eliminate “back room deals,” then development of this solution should become an objective.

  4. Once again I’m in agreement with Mac (to think we started out always disagreeing, oh well, all to the better). But why not also preserve a digital video copy of the meeting, burn it on to a dvd store it in the city and the library.

  5. All great ideas. All doable. Only thing is the lack of motivation on the city’s part. It will be necessary for the citizens to demand it or it will not be.

  6. Yet it is that Ms. Johnson is able to record certain discussions in excruciating detail (snippet from the 2/26/07 meeting minutes):

    Mr. Steve Irving, developer of the project, came to the podium to speak on the issue. Mr. Irving stated that Ald. Kapitan has been interfering with the landscaping on this project which was approved by the Plan Commission; Mr. Irving stated his opposition to Ald. Kapitan telling him what landscaping to plant. Mr. Irving said that he and his wife met with the manager and residents of Colonial House, and all approved the landscaping he offered. However, he continued, Ald. Kapitan has badgered the residents of Colonial House. Mr. Irving read letters from the manager and residents from Colonial House in support of his landscaping plans. Further, Mr. Irving said, Ald. Kapitan used abusive behavior to his wife while in her office. Mr. Irving stated that Ald. Kapitan planted some evergreens at his home that are planted too close together, but that is not his concern…Mr. Irving stated that Ald. Kapitan insisted that meetings be held with Colonial House. Ald. Kapitan interjected that Mr. Irving mischaracterizes him. Further, he said, Mr. Irving previously expressed to him that he did not want a “bunch of old people” dictating where he would put landscaping. And, Ald. Kapitan said Mr. Irving stated he did not want to be part of an election campaign. Ald. Kapitan added he does not stop being an Alderman when there is an election going on. Also, he said to Mr. Irving that he mischaracterizes him and slanders his character and he did not appreciate it. Mr. Irving responded that Ald. Kapitan earned it.

    Contrary to Mr. Irving’s statement, it is quite clear that both he and Ms. Johnson were part of an election campaign.

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