Attorney General: County violated Open Meetings Act


Ruling stems from July vote related to wind permits

 

CLINTON — The Illinois Attorney General’s office has concluded the DeWitt County Board violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act during its July 22, 2021 meeting.

At issue was an item listed on the July 22 meeting agenda under “New and Old Business: For discussion and possible action,” referring to “Curtailment Agreement.”

No other details pertaining to the item were specified on the agenda, but ultimately, based on that item, the board voted 6-4 to deny further building permits for the Alta Farms II wind energy project until the company could confirm wind turbines would be automatically curtailed during severe weather.  “Curtailing” is the practice of slowing the rotation of wind turbine blades.  Opponents of the project have cited the potential of spinning turbine blades to interfere with weather radar.

The county later lost a lawsuit filed against it by Enel over the action.

In its determination, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office concluded “the DeWitt County Board violated the OMA (Open Meetings Act) by failing to provide adequate advance notice of action taken during its July 22, 2021, meeting,” Steve Silverman, AG Public Access Bureau Chief wrote in a response sent to DeWitt County Board chairman Terry Ferguson, and Terry Redman, of Wapella, who filed a Request for Review with the AG’s office.

County board member Megan Myers asked that the curtailment item be placed on the July 22 agenda.  She told other board members during that meeting she had contacted the AG Public Access Counselor about the item.

In his determination, Silverman wrote, “The board member did discuss the agenda item with the Public Access Counselor after the meeting.”

During the July 22 meeting, board members David Newberg and Jay Wickenhauser warned the board they felt the agenda item was too vague and that a vote should wait for advice from the county state’s attorney.

Other board members felt it was not necessary.

“The agenda item did not indicate that the curtailment agreement related to the wind farm project or that the motion concerned restrictions on building permits or the operation of wind turbines,” Silverman wrote.  “A person reviewing the agenda before the meeting would have been deprived of advance notice of the general subject matter of the board’s action to prohibit the issuance of building permits to Alta Farms …”

Silverman noted the judge in the Enel lawsuit found the county exceeded its authority by prohibiting the zoning administrator from issuing building permits.

“This office requests that the board be mindful of its statutory obligation to include on its meeting agendas the general subject matter of all topics of final action,” Silverman wrote.

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