ROCK FALLS – The Whiteside County Board violated state law when a majority of its members met in a private, unannounced meeting last November, the attorney general’s office said Friday.
But the agency said the board had no effective remedy to redress the violation.
“Nonetheless, we caution members of the County Board to ensure that all discussions of the County Board’s business are held in strict compliance with the requirements of [the Open Meetings Act], ...” Assistant Attorney General Tola Sobitan wrote in a letter.
On Nov. 28, the board’s Democratic majority met in a Rock Falls union hall to discuss the selection of the board’s chairman and vice chairman, which was on the board’s agenda for the following week. The Open Meetings Act bars the majority of a governing body from discussing public business in a private meeting.
State’s Attorney Trish Joyce defended the meeting, saying it was essentially a political caucus.
At the union hall, a Sauk Valley Media reporter showed up, but members asked the reporter to leave. Member Glenn Truesdell, D-Rock Falls, told the reporter that he’d be “willing to throw his ass out.” The reporter later filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office.
In her letter, Sobitan said the selection of a chairman and vice chairman was clearly public business.
“[W]e emphasize that discussing public business within the context of a political caucus does not insulate board members from the requirements of the act,” she wrote.