LYNDON – In Illinois, public bodies must make decisions at announced meetings, but the village of Lyndon recently took action outside of one.
Under the state Open Meetings Act, a public body’s votes must be taken in public. The law aims to bring government into the open, rather than in the backrooms.
At the Lyndon board of trustees’ June 10 meeting, members were asked to approve payment of village bills. Trustee Les Williams questioned a $2,650 bill from Ballard’s Tree Trimming. In an interview, Williams said the trustees had agreed to cut down only one tree that was split.
According to the meeting minutes, Village President Tim Crady, however, said that the village needed to remove several trees and that Ballard’s “gave us a good deal.” So Crady called three of the six trustees and they agreed to have the work done.
Williams, who was not called, asked Crady whether his opinion mattered. Crady said it did.
In an interview, Williams said that because Crady failed to consult him, the bill was a surprise.
“I told him it was a violation of the Open Meetings Act. It was not on the agenda. We weren’t even in a meeting,” he said. “He should have called a special board meeting.”
Williams said he believes about seven trees were cut down.
Crady didn’t return calls for comment.
This isn’t the first time the village president has been in hot water over an Open Meetings Act issue.
Last year, he admitted he “dropped the ball” by having a board vote behind closed doors. To correct the mistake, he called a special meeting to revote the issue, which was the firing of an employee, Will Shaffer.
A minority of board members criticized the decision, saying Crady hadn’t provided documentation on the reasoning behind Shaffer’s termination. Then-Trustee Lyle Armstrong said Shaffer, who is black, was the victim of discrimination.
Before the April village election, Armstrong contended the board violated the state Open Meetings Act on March 14.
At that meeting, the board voted to sell the village road grader for $72,000 to $80,000 and sell the road roller as scrap, Armstrong said.
The board took the action under an item of unfinished business labeled “appraisal of road grader/roller.” But Armstong said the item didn’t indicate the board would vote on whether to sell the equipment.
The village defended itself by saying that the road grader’s sale was on a previous meeting’s agenda.
Lyndon resident Tracy Shaffer has filed a number of complaints for such apparent violations with the state attorney general’s office, which issues opinions on open meetings matters. The attorney general’s office has indicated in a number of instances that it is investigating.