Residents question village’s openness
LYNDON – The Lyndon village board is voting on issues without letting the public know beforehand, some residents say. In one case, the Illinois attorney general is investigating.
In a guest column last week in Sauk Valley Media, Lyle Armstrong, a former village trustee, 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.
“Decisions made at board meetings that may affect our village should be made available to the taxpayers prior to the board meetings, so taxpayers can have a chance to express their concerns,” wrote Armstrong, who resigned as a trustee last year over differences with Village President Tim Crady.
Another Lyndon resident, Tracy Shaffer, has filed an Open Meetings Act complaint against the village with the attorney general’s office. The board voted to buy the police chief a coat and two long-sleeved shirts without notifying the public on its meeting agenda.
The attorney general’s office had a choice of dismissing or investigating the complaint. It decided to look into it.
The attorney general notified the village of its decision in a March 18 letter, giving officials 7 business days after the receipt of the letter to respond.
Asked about Shaffer’s complaint on Tuesday, Village Clerk Shelly Moore laughed. She said the village’s usual procedure is for her to prepare a response to the complaint and have the village attorney review it.
She declined to comment further.
Two years ago, the Lee County Board voted to reduce the number of board members, but, as was its tradition, failed to put the item on its meeting agenda.
In that instance, however, Sauk Valley Media filed a complaint with the attorney general, saying the board violated the Open Meetings Act.
In response, then-Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon acknowledged the public notice may have fallen below the attorney general’s standards, but added that the board’s “collective memory” was that its procedure was adequate because the issue came out of a committee.
The attorney general found the board in violation. Members took another vote on the issue, and the board started to list all action items on its agendas.
Last year, village President Crady 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 a maintenance employee, Will Shaffer, Tracy Shaffer’s husband.
A minority of board members criticized the decision, saying Crady hadn’t provided documentation on the reasoning behind Shaffer’s termination. Then-Trustee Armstrong said Shaffer, who is black, was the victim of discrimination.
The attorney general is also investigating another one of Tracy Shaffer’s complaints. According to Shaffer, the village violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to preserve recordings of the board’s closed sessions and to meet periodically to review the minutes of those sessions.
As with the other complaint, the village must respond.
More recently, Shaffer said, she submitted another complaint about the decisions on the road grader and roller, which she contended broke the Open Meetings Act.
Doug Dunlap, a candidate for village trustee who supports the village president, said the issue on the road equipment had been on the agenda since January.
“Anyone who has gone to the board meetings knows that,” he said. “It wasn’t sprung on the public.”