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D161 Board Members Argue Legality of Sept. 17 Special Meeting

The board recesses Wednesday's meeting to let the district's attorney consult over whether the state's Open Meetings Act was violated. The meeting will resume Friday, Sept. 30.

Wednesday's Summit Hill District 161 Board meeting was the first in years to be held away from , taking the show on the road to . The main agenda items included touring the junior high's fitness center, honoring the girls softball team, and discuss district Illinois Standards Achievement Test scores.

All that was overshadowed, however, by a contentious debate over the legality of a special board meeting held earlier this month, a debate that eventually forced the board to recess Wednesday's meeting so that the district's lawyer could be consulted on the matter. The meeting will resume at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30.

Concerns over a Sept. 17 special meeting came up during public comments when several audience members criticized a letter to the editor by board member Sean William Doyle that was published in Wednesday's Southtown Star. In his letter, Doyle said he raised concerns to board members that the meeting wasn't being recorded so that the public could listen to it on the district's website, which is board policy so long as the meeting isn't about confidential personnel or student matters. He said his request to record the meeting, which created an assistant superintendent position for the district, was initially denied, but that board members eventually decided to have the meeting recorded. 

"Podcasting meetings was instituted by the school board in 2008 to insure transparency and accountability," he wrote. "Sadly, in this case the board fell short of that."

In responding to the public comments, Doyle said he thought the Sept. 17 meeting violated the state's Open Meetings Act because the agenda was posted less than 48 hours in advance. According to a screenshot of the PDF posting provided by Doyle to Patch, the agenda was published online at 11:34 a.m. Sept. 15, and the meeting was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sept. 17. Doyle also said district policy was violated because he was informed of the meeting less than 48 hours before it.

Board President Mary Kenny asked Doyle to table this discussion until next meeting so that the district's attorney could be present to advise the board on the matter. But Doyle did not relent, saying he wanted to go on the record at this meeting. Eventually, the debate turned into a shouting match between board members. 

"This is not getting us anywhere. ... You're trying to embarrass the board, not help the board," said Board Secretary Denise Lenz, adding that Doyle's time could be better spent helping the district instead of quibbling over a four-minute discrepancy. 

Discussion ended, and the board went into a scheduled closed session that lasted almost an hour and a half. When they returned, board member George Perros made a motion to recess until Friday.

After Wednesday's meeting, Doyle said he rejects the characterization that he is splitting hairs on this issue. He also cited another example of a special meeting agenda not being posted for at least 48 hours beforehand. According to a screenshot of the PDF for a July 7 special meeting, the agenda was not posted on the district's website until 7:34 a.m. on July 6.

"I'm surprised that anyone calling not following the law nit-picking," he said. "That's not nit-picking in my world. That should be expected of any school district."

Doyle said he hopes the board's lawyer will be able to provide some clarity to the situation. If the attorney finds the Sept. 17 violated state law, any actions taken at it would be nullified, meaning the board would need to hold another meeting to create the assistant superintendent position.

All 4 Kids September 29, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Grow up Doyle...4 minutes. Big deal. You are wasting far more than 4 minutes by arguing something so ridiculous!! All this time you spend fighting with everyone over 4 minutes, you should be talking about what's going on in our schools. Grow the hell up already!!
Kerri U September 29, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Mr. Doyle is just having his fun on trying to criticize the Board Members that oppose him since he knows his time on the board is drawing to a close. It is all a huge political game to see if he can make them look bad and himself better for the next election. The new board members are looking to provide us with something we, S161 taxpayers, haven't had in awhile - People that care about the schools, the students and the parents instead of themselves. As someone else in a previous post stated, Grow Up, Doyle. It is never pretty to see a grown man make an idiot of himself.
jd September 30, 2011 at 12:35 AM
How interesting Doyle said it is board policy to record special meetings. If that were the case why weren't the special meetings recorded when you were president Doyle and yes Doyle there were meetings that could have been recorded. Did you forget the community can still look these up on the website. Shame on you Mr Doyle for not following board policy.
Kathie October 07, 2011 at 08:07 PM
Board policy is aligned with state laws. For clarification: 1) Three or more members can request a special meeting. 2) "Public notice of any special meeting except a meeting held in the event of a bona fide emergency, or of any rescheduled regular meeting, or of any reconvened meeting.... Notice of any special meeting shall also be posted on the Web site, and the notice must include the agenda for the special meeting. "If a public body holds a meeting without fulfilling the public notice and public convenience requirements, it has violated the Act." 3) All meetings must have minutes: "Minutes shall include ... a summary of discussion on all matters proposed, deliberated, or decided, and a record of any votes taken." [We would mean that any discussion must be summarized, rather than just a simple note that a discussion took place.] 4) Questioning ~Did Mr. Doyle file a complaint with the attorney General or States Attorney? Why are they wasting money on the board attorneys? "Subsection 3 of the Act (5 ILCS 120/3) is the civil enforcement provision. Subsection 3(a) authorizes any person, including the State's Attorney of the county in which noncompliance may occur, to bring a civil action for the enforcement of the Act within 60 days after a meeting alleged to have been held in violation of the Act, or, if facts concerning the meeting are not discovered within that period, within 60 days of the discovery of a violation by the appropriate State's Attorney.
jd October 07, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Kathie All your questions will be answered if you listen to the podcast from that meeting. The board did not violate any law. All the facts are there and the attorney gave the answers, As for spending money on the Lawyer, ask Sean William Doyle why that happened.

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