Virtual vote could violate open meetings act

Posted 5/28/20

Virtual vote could violate open meetings act

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Virtual vote could violate open meetings act


On June 2, 2020 the DeWitt County Board is reconvening a special meeting to vote on the Tradewinds Wind Farm Special Use application. I question the expediency of this, given that the DeWitt County Zoning Board (ZBA) and Regional Planning Committee (RPC), entities whose very mission is to advise the Board on such projects, voted down the Special Use Permit on two different occasions.
It was voted down, in part, because the Tradewinds special use application does not have a decommissioning plan.  It’s easy to understand why Tradewinds doesn’t want to sign off on one.  Tradewinds is owned by an Italian Company called Enel Green Power.  They build the structures and then sell them.  They’re not planning on being around in 5-10 years when Obama era wind subsidies are gone and the turbines are obsolete.  We could be stuck with the costs associated with decaying turbines littering our county.
As a taxpayer I’m subsidizing an Italian corporation with my federal tax dollars. That corporation wants to put a 600-foot turbine (that’s as big as the St. Louis arch, folks)  as close as 2,000 feet from my home. So, now I’m paying federal taxes dollars to have my health and well being disrupted on property that I pay local  taxes on. When the turbines are no longer profitable, whoever the current owner is may have an opening to leave their mess behind.
A decommissioning plan is standard operating procedure. This is the kind of stuff you get in writing before a project begins, not after.

I also question the timing of the special meeting.  We are in a global crisis, yet Tradewinds is at the forefront of the board’s mind.  Why?  The Illinois Open Meetings Act is very specific about how meetings need to be conducted.  Governor Pritzker has suspended some of the criteria due to COVID-19, but I think a legal argument can easily be made that government entities are to take care of essential business under the new COVID-19 OMA guidelines.  It shouldn’t be used as a loophole to push through a pet project before newly elected county board members take their seats. When asked if this was considered essential business, the County Board Chairman stated “all county business is essential”. Perhaps, but this action shows a clear inability to prioritize during a crisis.
The county board is opening itself up to probable Open Meetings Act lawsuits.  OMA is a law, not a mandate. Electronic meetings, in regard to the Open Meetings Act, can be dicey in the best of times.  If audio is dropped, it is no longer an open meeting.  There are other unforeseeable technical difficulties that render a meeting in violation of OMA. In the library world, the second OMA was violated, the meeting was over.  Libraries don’t have the funds to cover OMA lawsuits.
I don’t think DeWitt County does either.

Joan Rhoades