Open Meetings Act

Northern Illinois University continues to get "written up" for the way it manages tracking of property and equipment. According to a compliance audit released Thursday through the state's Office of the Auditor General, an inventory certification reported 1,288 items ($1,624,740) of equipment could not be located by the university. The listing included approximately 520 computers, servers, CPUs, or other electronic storage devices.

This finding has been repeated since 2015.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

The DeKalb County government employees got some insight Thursday night into how to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act. These rules are invoked frequently when the actions of area governments and other public bodies come under scrutiny.

Leah Bartelt of the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Bureau offered an in-depth explanation of the state’s FOIA and OMA rules. 

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The severance package for former Northern Illinois University president Doug Baker is now null and void, according to a court ruling Wednesday.

A DeKalb County judge ruled that the NIU Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act. Judge Bradley Waller said in his decision that the board did not adequately notify the public of the terms of Baker’s more than $600,000 severance package.

Northern Illinois University will be back in court Wednesday, possibly to resolve a lawsuit that contests the circumstances of the severance package for former NIU President Doug Baker after his resignation in June.

Misty Haji-Sheikh, a DeKalb resident and activist, claims the NIU Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act. She maintains the Board did not give the public enough notice or opportunity for input on the matter during the June 15 meeting.

Page Limit Not A Problem For NIU Open Meeting Case

Sep 22, 2017
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The usual length of a court document will not prevent either side from presenting its full argument in an Open Meetings Act case, according to a DeKalb County court ruling Friday.

Judge Bradley Waller says Misty Haji-Sheikh’s attorney may exceed the page limit for her argument. She says the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act and did not notify the public of former president Doug Baker’s severance package, which was more than $600,000.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

DeKalb County Judge Bradley Waller granted a temporary restraining order on Friday that bars Northern Illinois University from taking further action regarding former President Doug Baker’s severance package after his June resignation.

The university already paid Baker more than $600,000 on July 15.

DeKalb resident Misty Haji-Sheikh sued the NIU Board of Trustees in June for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Act. Waller ruled that NIU cannot take further action regarding Baker’s severance package before the next hearing on Sept. 8.

Whiteside County's new State’s Attorney is defending a meeting of the County Board’s Democratic majority.  The meeting is being investigated by the Illinois attorney general following a complaint it violated the Open Meetings Act. The DeKalb State's Attorney has followed suit in a similar situation.

Meetings Under Review in Whiteside and DeKalb Counties

In Whiteside County, Sauk Valley Media is waiting to hear from the Illinois Attorney General’s office.  At issue--whether members of the county board violated the Open Meetings Act.  Late last month, members of the board allegedly threatened to call police when a reporter tried to cover a discussion over the selection of a new board chairman.  Members contend it was a caucus gathering, not a public meeting.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Thursday to strengthen the Illinois Open Meetings Act by requiring that notice of public meetings and agendas are posted for two full days before the meeting.

“This law gives the public greater access to information and activities that impact their lives,” Quinn said. “Increasing government openness and accountability from the statewide level to the local level will make Illinois a stronger, more ethical state.”

 

DeKalb officials are trying to put a stop to speculation about why City Clerk Steve Kapitan resigned last Friday. The city manager and city attorney announced Tuesday that Kapitan voluntarily resigned from his elected post because he wasn’t able to keep up with duties related to the Open Meetings Act.