Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Oh What A Night

Yesterday I posted the proposed raises here for the DuPage County elected officials.  Last night we were to vote on those raises.  Based on public comment made by Jean Kaczmarek the vote was pushed back to June 3rd due to a potential Open Meeting Act violation.  Below is Jeans statement.

Good evening. My name is Jean Kaczmarek.

The agenda states that you will be voting on future raises for elected officials. Tonight I have concerns that this vote is a potential Open Meetings Act violation.
The Open Meetings Act, ILCS 120/7.3 b) reads: At least 6 days before an employer participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund approves an employee's total compensation package that is equal to or in excess of $150,000 per year, the employer must post on its website the total compensation package for that employee.
A week ago, I searched the County’s website thoroughly for where increases for compensation packages up for vote might be posted, including the Employee Compensation home page. After all, the salaries for positions of elected officials are included within the same database as employees. I could not locate anything.
I was beginning to think you wouldn’t be voting at all on raises.
But then, I found the pending raises in the agenda packet posted Friday night before a three-day holiday weekend, buried on pages 520 to 526.
Because I knew that this room would be filled with legal gray matter and that I’m just an ordinary citizen, I sought the opinion today of the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access office. I spoke with Asst. Attorney General Tim O’Brien.
I asked about the definitions of employer, employee and elected official. Mr. O’Brien said that it would require research.
He said that the County may be operating within the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. He said that it struck him that less than sufficient notice was provided.
Mr. O’Brien told me that I raised valid questions and that there was cause for further inquiry, and that if I filed for a request for review of an alleged OMA violation, his office would take it seriously.
Placing pending raises for elected officials in a thick agenda packet posted the Friday night before a three-day holiday, then voting the following day, does NOT meet my criteria for transparency.
It’s not enough to repeat again and again you’re transparent. You actually have to practice it.
Whether you vote yes or no to raises isn’t my point. I’m concerned that you shouldn’t even be voting on these resolutions at all, especially when some of you will personally benefit should they pass.
I have made copies of the statute and the County’s employee compensation webpage where the pending salaries should have been posted at least six days ago and weren’t.

Many other government bodies discussed this issue well in advance of the deadline below are some examples:
St. Clair County voted APRIL 1st to freeze salaries of elected officials.
On April 11thGrundy County voted to freeze salaries.
On April 13thVermilion County Board Chairman Gary Weinard and committee chairman John Alexander indicated to the committee the issue would be brought up Tuesday in an open forum setting to the full board.
On April 15th, Hamilton County was discussing salariesOn April 14thWill County was discussing salaries
On April 14thWill County was discussing salaries.
The process of trying to ram through raises was neither open or transparent.  I hope a lesson was learned last night.

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