Complaint filed over virtual board meeting

Issue bears on final vote for wind permit


CLINTON — Five DeWitt County residents have filed a complaint with the Illinois Office of the Attorney General (AG) claiming the county board’s May 21 meeting was illegal.
Residents, Olivia Klemm, Betsy Shifflet, Andrea Rhoades, Melissa Crutcher and Aaron Kammeyer filed the complaint, which alleges the board failed to provide proper public access and comment during the May 21 meeting.
The Office of the Attorney General contacted DeWitt County on May 29 asking its board or legal representative to respond in writing to the allegations made in the complaint.
In a letter to the county, supervising attorney Christopher Boggs, with the AG’s office, wrote that his office, “determined that further action is warranted,” regarding allegations the county board violated part of the Illinois Open Meetings Act based on how it conducted its May 21 virtual meeting.
Under the Public Access Bureau provision of the Open Meeting Act, the county was required to respond to the charges within seven days and include supporting materials.

In her letter that accompanied the complaint, Olivia Klemm wrote she notified the county clerk’s office in time to be included on the meeting agenda to speak, but the agenda already had been posted online.
Klemm wrote that clerk Dana Smith notified county board chairman David Newberg that Klemm wanted to speak during the meeting but that her name was not on the agenda.  Newberg did allow Klemm to address the board during the meeting.
Klemm wrote that she appreciated the accommodation made for her but felt a revised agenda that included her name should have been posted.
Klemm also had concerns about the 30-minute total time limit placed on public comment, which she felt was too brief, and about not being able to submit documents via the Zoom platform.
“If we were meeting in person, I would have been able to either provide hand-outs or present with a projector,” she wrote.
The meeting included about 20 people scheduled to speak to the board, all in opposition to a scheduled June 2 virtual county board vote on the proposed Alta Farms II wind energy project special use permit.
There was no action scheduled to take place on the special use permit during the May 21 meeting.
The June 2 meeting went ahead, as scheduled, and also was a partly virtual meeting.  Some board members have been present in the county board room during the virtual meetings, which is permitted temporarily under Gov. Pritzker's executive order.

In the county’s response to the AG’s office, DeWitt County assistant state’s attorney Timothy Holl wrote, “There was nothing extraordinary on the agenda for this meeting.”

Holl wrote there were several ways to connect to the May 21 meeting, including via Zoom, but that residents could connect to the meeting without Internet service by dialing a telephone number and entering the meeting ID and password provided on the meeting agenda.

He wrote the methods of accessing the meeting were in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, “in light of the governor’s executive order 2020-07 and your office’s guidance to public bodies, ‘Guidance to Public Bodies on the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act during the COVID-19 pandemic’.”

• See the complete story in the Friday, 6/12 print edition of the Clinton Journal or on Thursday in the Journal E-Edition for subscribers.