Hooray for the sheriff
The Sangamon County sheriff’s office has taken a report on an alleged violation of the state Open Meetings Act by Springfield Mayor Mike Houston and the city council.
The complainant is me, but the victim, really, is the public, which deserved to listen to a discussion of the mayor’s idea of putting Oak Ridge Cemetery under private management. Instead of floating the proposal in public, the mayor and council went behind closed doors in a Nov. 5 executive session. Reporters, including yours truly, found out two days later.
City officials have said it’s a matter of personnel and collective bargaining, both subjects that can be legally discussed behind closed doors. I say it’s a matter of public policy, which must be discussed in public.
Violations of the Open Meetings Act are misdemeanors punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, but city police last week declined to take a report from me, the first step in enforcing the law. The sheriff’s detective who spoke with me today said that he will type up a report and forward it to Sangamon County state’s attorney John Milhiser.
Shortly before I spoke with a detective, Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin and Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner this afternoon asked the city’s legal department to draft an ordinance authorizing release of an audio recording of the secret meeting. Are they hoping to avoid criminal sanctions? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I do know that shoplifters who offer to return stolen candy bars still go to jail.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.