Anti-recording stance simply defies the law
Lee County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg has taken an unbelievable position regarding the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
Seeberg, miffed that a county resident, John Kelley, made an audio recording of an Executive Committee meeting, said he wants the man prosecuted for a felony. Seeberg said he referred the matter to the Lee County state’s attorney’s office. For some reason, State’s Attorney Henry Dixon has declined comment.
Seeberg’s position is unbelievable because the law clearly states that members of the public can record meetings that are subject to the Open Meetings Act. The county Executive Committee clearly is subject to the Act.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office has several pertinent documents posted on its website.
Here’s what the “Illinois Open Meetings Act: Frequently asked questions for public bodies” states:
“May a member of the public record an open meeting?
“Yes. Any member of the public can record the meeting by tape, film, or other means, subject to some reasonable restrictions.”
Here’s what Madigan’s “Guide to the Illinois Open Meetings Act” states:
“The Open Meetings Act provides that ‘any person may record the proceedings at meetings required to be open by this Act by tape, film or other means.’”
The lone proviso is that public bodies “shall prescribe reasonable rules” to govern recordings at meetings. Such rules should be in the spirit of a 1975 attorney general’s opinion: Taping “should not be allowed to interfere with the overall decorum and proceeding of the meeting.”
The Guide further advises:
“It is not appropriate for public bodies to create rules on the spot. Rather, rules should be written and published after appropriate public notice and deliberation.”
Seeberg’s position is that the meeting could not be recorded without the consent of everyone involved.
The County Board chairman somehow believes Illinois’ eavesdropping law is applicable here.
The Illinois Open Meetings Act holds sway.
And that law allows people to record public meetings.
No ifs, ands or buts.
To argue otherwise flies in the face of the law.
State’s Attorney Dixon has yet to set Chairman Seeberg straight on the matter.
His failure to do so is neglect of duty. So, we call on Seeberg to abandon his indefensible position and withdraw his request to prosecute Kelley.
To do otherwise would be simply unbelievable.