Election of the chairman was listed on the County Board’s public agenda.
Members, wanting to discuss the contentious subject of who should chair the board after a prearranged agreement fell apart during public discussion at the meeting, first suggested going into recess and heading to separate meeting rooms[...]
Schmack advised the board such a move would be in violation of the Open Meetings Act. Then, County Board members suggested standing at ease to allow an ad-hoc committee to meet, which Schmack also advised against. During the roughly 15-minute ordeal in the public portion of the meeting, board members Paul Stoddard, D-DeKalb, and Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, were in off-microphone discussions with each other.
The board eventually voted to stand at ease and divided into two groups to talk about who they wanted to elect.
The Illinois Senate goes “at ease” sometimes. Here’s an example (PDF p. 29).
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Senate, the hour of 9:20 standard Senate time having arrived, the Committee on Assignments will meet immediately in the President’s Anteroom. Will all the members of the Committee on Assignments please report to the President’s Anteroom immediately? The Senate stands at ease. (at ease)
Here’s another example (see 11:48 update). Clearly, members who are “at ease” are waiting around for the official meeting to reconvene. They are not conducting the people’s business.
Keep in mind as well: not all provisions of the Open Meetings Act apply to the bodies of the General Assembly as they do to local units of Illinois government.
I believe a violation of the OMA probably did occur.
Furthermore, the thrashing about for a loophole when their partisan machinations fell apart does not speak well for either party.