MCC vote delay ends our Open Meetings Act inquiry

The decision by the McHenry County College Board of Trustees to put off its April 16 vote to extend President Vicky Smith's contract bollixed the Northwest Herald's request to investigate its compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The MCC board called the April 16 special meeting barely four days after voters tossed out two incumbents and elected three reform candidates. While the board's ever-growing chorus of critics blasted the meeting as not playing according to Hoyle, I took the tack that the agenda did not conform to new and more stringent Open Meetings Act requirements.

Namely, as you can read in my blog post, that the agenda was so vague that an ordinary person could not conclude that the board intended to actually vote on a contract. The new requirements mandate that any final action on a meeting agenda be sufficiently descriptive.

As soon as I wrote that post, I asked the Attorney General Public Access Counselor to examine whether the vote would violate the spirit of the law.

But the MCC board, in response to public outcry, pushed off the vote until April 25, which was the final meeting of the old board – the new members were sworn in minutes after the old board extended Smith's contract through June 2015.

That delay means that the public access counselor had nothing to investigate, given that no final action was taken. The letter from the counselor's office telling me that no further action can be taken arrived at my desk this morning.

Before you ask, I'm not going to challenge the agenda for the April 25 meeting with the counselor. While it does not explicitly state that a vote will be taken, it reads to me like an average person would reach that conclusion independently.

Hopefully, the MCC board will take advantage of this dodged bullet – I'm pretty sure the Northwest Herald would have prevailed had the board voted – and be more descriptive when it lays out what it intends to do at its meetings.

Of course, it's not like MCC doesn't have a history of dodging bullets from the Attorney General's office when we had the college dead to rights.

Which is probably one of the reasons why the MCC board has that aforementioned ever-growing chorus of critics.

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I'll also take a moment to update you on another request for review that the newspaper filed regarding a March 6 "emergency" meeting called by outgoing Grafton Township Supervisor Linda Moore.

Reporter Stephen Di Benedetto filed a request for review shortly after the meeting, arguing that it did not meet the criteria under the Open Meetings Act for a "bona fide" emergency that allows governments to waive advance notice requirements.

The counselor's office asked the township on March 13 for copies of the meeting agenda and minutes so it could investigate the matter further.

On April 22, the counselor's office wrote again to ask why it had not received the information. The Open Meetings Act requires a public body to furnish information within seven business days of receiving a request for review.

We'll keep you posted on how that one turns out.

Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at kcraver@shawmedia.com.