Is public owed an apology for illegal County Board meeting?
I hate making mistakes as much as anyone. But I’m human, and I make them.
When I make a mistake in a story, I write a correction, followed by, "The Northwest Herald regrets the error." A correction alone won't cut it – I owe you an apology. If the error in question is in a story about the McHenry County Board, a voice or email message is typically waiting for me first thing in the morning from a board member or county staff.
On May 26, a handful of McHenry County Board members held an illegal meeting to change a proposed redistricting map. On Aug. 12, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office agreed with my complaint that the meeting violated the Open Meetings Act.
It’s been more than a month, and there has been no public contrition from anyone involved.
A brief recap is in order. County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, convened the private meeting with four other members to hash out problems that some of them had with the post-census remap of County Board districts set to be approved later that day by the Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.
It included Vice Chairman John Jung, R-Woodstock, Marc Munaretto, R-Algonquin, Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, and Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry. It was convened at the request of Anna May Miller, R-Cary, who could not attend – her husband, Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Robert Miller, attended in her place.
Jung, Munaretto and Provenzano are members of the legislative committee, and under the law, three members of a seven-member committee constitutes a meeting that must be open to the public with advance notice. But the group decided instead to have Jung and Provenzano rotate in and out of the room to avoid the legal definition of a meeting.
This illegal meeting didn't look good at all. It was meant to alter a map, painstakingly developed in the open, to determine how we elect our leaders for the next decade.
Isn’t the public owed an apology?
At the very least, the rest of the County Board is owed one. Many of them were not pleased about the secret meeting, and cited it as among the reasons why they voted to trounce the proposed map that came out of it. Several members were upset enough to schedule an Open Meetings Act workshop July 19, an hour before their regular meeting.
Apologies hurt the pride, but they’re not hard. Say you’re sorry for the illegal meeting, and mean it. And do it publicly.
Apologies can speak volumes. But silence does, too.
Senior Reporter Kevin Craver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .