Witness Government in Action
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
What a night! Like I said after the last board meeting, if they are all this entertaining, I'm never missing another one. After trying to start the meeting a minute early, the room quickly filled to more than 50 people (the limit on meetings and gatherings indoors by the Governor of Illinois Executive Order 2020-07, which was extended by 2020-52). The key is that a public meeting can not limit attendance because that is a violation of the Open Meeting Act. So basically, what we watched is open/transparent government collide with a global pandemic.
Why this is important -- for one, for the past two months (since we could return to in person meetings), residents and board members have been asking for a Zoom option for these meetings. We have things going on in our village that is of interest to the residents and they WANT to be at these meetings -- but we also have residents who are at risk and need an option to stay safe. The majority of our board, or at least the President and the CAO, have ignored this request -- and last night that is what ended our meeting.
Why this is also important -- one of the things on the agenda last night was a presentation of the investigation of the police chief. I was sure yesterday that it was going to be highly inflammatory. And given that Phil was proudly handing out copies of the report (with a giant label on the top that it was highly confidential and subject to attorney-client privilege), I'm fairly sure that I was right. So, yes, the report has been released to the public -- but the presentation was stopped because the room was over capacity.
So, the board will reschedule the meeting and add a zoom option -- yes, yes they will. But it is key to remember that also part of the governor's order is that the the zoom experience be equal to that which is in the room -- in other words, everyone on zoom must be able to hear all of the board members when they speak. After the debacle at the meeting at the end of June, I submitted a PAC review request to this point and the response that was shared with the village included this:
Given my experience with previous Zoom meetings in the past, I'm not convinced that the administration has the technical ability to pull that off -- but I'd suggest they pick up a phone and call the local school board for pointers.
Lastly, I highly recommend that our board review the basics of Robert's Rules of Order -- including our attorney. It sounded to me that Trustee Odom attempted to move the inflammatory presentation to Exec Session (where it belongs) with a second and that was over ruled by the President. I think the attorney was trying to say that this was a presentation, not a motion -- but what he actually said was that the board would not entertain any motion not on the agenda -- in essence he attempted to say that in order to table something; you'd have to get it put on the agenda in advance -- which is frankly, not possible -- or correct. But then again, Robert's Rules is VERY clear on a ban on personal attacks -- and we've all seen that happen in our board meetings too -- without being stopped by either the chair or the attorney.
My hope of what comes from this is a few things:
The majority of the board needs to take note, they are losing the residents. Even residents once supporting some of the board members are losing confidence in them and the evidence is the massive numbers of people who showed up in support of our police chief.
There needs to be permanent Zoom option in our board meetings. While we are in a global pandemic, it must follow the rules of the being able to participate as if in the room. But once this pandemic is over, I believe we should stream our board meetings live and post the videos on the site so the public to review. I believe this is required of any government who believes in being truly transparent and responsible to their residents.
The board rethinks the agenda. There is a right way and wrong way to do everything. Even if you really believe the complaints (which for the record, all are after the police chief went to the CAO with a formal, written complaint to take to the board regarding the President threatening a resident with a baseball bat that she refused to follow policy and protocol on --- making this released report written proof of retaliation), then talk in executive session and the move to fire him. He's been a stand-up guy; you only make yourselves look like you have a vendetta and are a group of petty misfits when you pull a stunt like dragging a good man through the mud.