Star Covers Library Comments at Council Meeting

I see some of comments left at the Daily Chronicle website express puzzlement that Mac McIntyre hasn’t yet filed suit in the case of the DeKalb Public Library Board’s violations of the Open Meetings Act. Today the Northern Star sheds some light:

Mac McIntyre, member of the Finance Advisory Committee, said the DeKalb Public Library board voted in closed session, on May 12, on the purchase of the neighboring DeKalb Clinic.

“In doing so, they broke the law. They also broke the law by not publishing that they were going into closed session or give any reason for going into closed session,” McIntyre said. “There was $1.8 million of public tax dollars that were approved and levied in closed session in three meetings of the Library Board…That $1.8 million is roughly equal to their annual operating budget.”

According to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, voting on appropriations of public funds in a closed forum is prohibited. McIntyre called for the postponement of the DeKalb Clinic purchase proposed on Oct. 25 until an investigation by the city council was made and it issued a public report of the findings.

My take: Mac is giving Council a chance to address the DKPL violations just as he allowed time for the State’s Attorney to act. How embarrassing it would be to file suit, only to discover afterward that Mayor Kris “Ethics Warrior” Povlsen was already fixin’ to clean up Dodge. Why, it would be almost as embarrassing as having a council that chose to do nothing at all.

DC Hits It Out of the Park

“Schaumburg: Open meetings agreement disappoints”.

The settlement – filed and approved in court this week and amounting to little more than a slap on the wrist – shows us that the DeKalb Library Board still has no credibility and that state laws in place to enforce and protect open and transparent government are viewed as a nuisance by many of those in power, including DeKalb County’s presiding judge.

It’s as incisive an editorial on this matter as I’d hoped to see, but didn’t really think I would. Bravo!

Conflicts of Interest & the Tip of the Iceberg

Council’s affirmation of the mayor’s removal of John Guio from the Plan Commission for reasons of ethics comes as no surprise. I wonder, however, if any of the aldermen get that wife Sue Guio’s former position with the city presented more in the way of potential conflicts of interest than her place on the board of Hope Haven ever has.

But I digress. What this action does is to set a precedent for an ethical cleansing, and just in time. DeKalb City Council must turn its attention to the board of the DeKalb Public Library, DKPL’s own conflicts of interest and its years-long pattern of ignoring the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.

This will not be easy, because it is apparent most council members do not fully understand their responsibilities over this body and I’m betting city staff are not racing to tell them. The aldermen will have to insist on the discussion. Continue reading Conflicts of Interest & the Tip of the Iceberg

Meeting Minutes Lost

In trying to recall some of the work done by DeKalb’s Citizens Environmental Commission, I arranged last week with the DeKalb City Clerk to look at two years’ worth of its meeting minutes. This should easily have been accomplished by my browsing regular council meeting agenda packets, but only the minutes of a half-dozen Enviro meetings had been turned in to be received and filed by the council. Whereabouts of the others were uncertain so I had to make a formal FOIA request to locate the rest. Continue reading Meeting Minutes Lost

Library Timeline & Pertinent Expenditures

The DeKalb Library (DKPL) board passed a resolution at the beginning of 2007 to expand and improve Library facilities. This indeed has happened; since its passage, the Library started a fund for a new boiler, accepted TIF money for window and other improvements, and remodeled the Youth Services department and the lounge.

Almost immediately, however, DKPL also began looking beyond its own premises. We know this because starting April 2007, DKPL began meeting in closed sessions under 5ILCS 120/2(2)(5), which is an exemption under the Open Meetings Act for discussing the sale or lease of real property. Also, DKPL paid for a consultation with Guio Real Estate in June of that year. Continue reading Library Timeline & Pertinent Expenditures

Fun with CAFR & the Liberry

Library ShelvesThe DeKalb Public Library has a current annual budget of $1.9 million, yet apparently has enough funds on hand to buy property valued at $1.8 million. That’s quite a reserve! Normally for slush I’d call for a refund (about $40 per resident) but perhaps we should ask DKPL to help the city save for the police station instead. [/snark]

At any rate, in trying to ascertain whether red flags went up for the auditor regarding DKPL’s budgeting practices, I’ve resorted to a careful reading of Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR, pronounced KAY-fur) and am through nearly 40% of the CAFR for FY2009. Generally it’s not as bad a slog as one might fear, though there are exceptions… Continue reading Fun with CAFR & the Liberry

City Must Reveal Aldermanic Appointee Applications

It’s Chicago we’re talking about, but it bodes well for the very similar DeKalb Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made by our local dailies, does it not?

March 5, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) — The Illinois Attorney General’s office says the Mayor’s office must turn over job applications for the two vacant Alderman positions.

The city had tried to keep the information secret. Late this afternoon, the AG’s public access counselor, Cara Smith, ruled that the public should have access to information about the application process. Continue reading City Must Reveal Aldermanic Appointee Applications

Advice & Consent

From Chapter 2 of the DeKalb Municipal Code (PDF p. 2):

a) Pursuant to Article VII, Section 6 (f) of the Constitution of the State of Illinois (1970) and a Referendum Election held pursuant to Illinois Compiled Statutes, (65 ILCS 5/28-4), when vacancies in the office of alderman are occasioned by reason of resignation, failure to elect or qualify, death, permanent physical or mental disability, conviction of a disqualifying crime, abandonment of office or removal from office or of residency from ward, the City Council shall call a special election to fill said vacancy if at the occurrence of said vacancy, the unexpired term was more than eighteen (18) months in length; and if the unexpired term is eighteen (18) months or less in length, the Mayor may, with the advice and consent of the City Council, appoint a person to serve as alderman in the vacancy until the next general election.

By contacting the remaining aldermen to build a pre-meeting consensus, the mayor cheated us out of hearing and responding to the advice of Council members in the matter of the Third Ward aldermanic appointment. He is set to do so again in the case of the newly-vacated Seventh Ward. Continue reading Advice & Consent

Northern Star Fighting for 3rd Ward Names

The Northern Star has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain the names of the persons considered by the mayor for the vacated Third Ward alderman spot.

With the questionable past of the 3rd Ward, it is interesting to see that the city has decided to withhold this information from the public, since an aldermanic position is in fact a public position. On Jan. 25, DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen appointed Pam Verbic, a long-time 3rd Ward resident, to the position that had been vacant since Victor Wogen resigned on Dec. 14, 2009. Congratulations to Mrs. Verbic.

The Star, however, is still wondering why the other nine applicants have not been announced, since it is a public position.

The Northern Star filed a Freedom of Information request for the names of the 10 applicants, and, in a letter addressed to the Northern Star, DeKalb City Clerk Steve Kapitan said “City Attorney Norma Guess asserts that this request [for the 10 names] be denied because it constitutes a clear unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Let’s take a look at FOIA. Continue reading Northern Star Fighting for 3rd Ward Names

Free FOIA Seminar in DeKalb

NIU will host the first of about a dozen November seminars covering key changes to Illinois transparency laws on Monday, November 9, in the Holmes Student Center. The informational seminars, offered by the Illinois Attorney General’s office, are free and intended for both public officials and other residents who are interested in changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA) that will go into effect at the beginning of next year.

Monday’s seminar will run from 1-3 p.m. in the Sky Room on the 16th floor of the Holmes Student Center. Although it is free, registration is required because seating is limited.

For more information, e-mail specialevents@atg.state.il.us or phone the Conference Registration Line at 1-866-376-7215.

The seminar does not take the place of required state training for FOIA and OMA officers of governmental units.

H/T B.F.