D-46 may review closed-meeting minutes more often

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 3:23 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 11:01 p.m. CDT

PRAIRIE GROVE – School District 46 officials may start reviewing their closed-session minutes every two months instead of the six months required by state law.

School Board President Margaret Ponga proposed the policy change at the board's meeting Tuesday evening, and the board will decide whether to adopt it at its September meeting.

The change is designed to address an inconsistency with state law, Ponga said.

She was surprised to discover that while state law requires local governments to review the minutes from their closed-door meetings every six months, Open Meeting Act challenges must be filed with the Illinois Attorney General's Office within 60 days.

The District 46 school board also decided in July to get additional training provided by the Public Access Counselor – the branch of the Attorney General's Office charged with reviewing disputes over open meetings and records requests – and to be more specific about why it's going into closed session whenever possible.

The changes follow a Northwest Herald article detailing possible violations made by the school board from Nov. 13, 2012, through April 23, 2013.

The Northwest Herald requested a review to find out whether any violations occurred, but the 60-day time limit had elapsed.

The proposed change still means many minutes would be released after the 60-day window ended.

For example, if the board released the minutes for its July 9 meeting at its Sept. 10 meeting, two months later as the policy changes proposes, 63 days would have passed.

That would happen two out of three times over the course of a year.

Ponga originally had proposed reviewing closed-session minutes every month, but the district's attorneys suggested every other month.

Every month might be too time consuming, Ponga said, adding that she thinks it's a "terrific proposal considering we're doing it every six months."

Some minutes may take longer to be released depending on whether privacy or liability issues still apply, Ponga said. Reviews would look at the board's most recent minutes as well as older ones.

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