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Labor union: McHenry County Board violated Open Meetings Act in Rauner meeting

Group's lawsuit asks that board's support for governor's 'Turnaround Agenda' be declared null

WOODSTOCK – A local labor union says McHenry County Board members violated the Open Meetings Act when they met privately with the governor, then later publicly supported his "Turnaround Agenda."

In a lawsuit filed late last week, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 is asking that the county board's support for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's overhaul of labor laws be declared null and void.

Rauner presented proposed changes to the state's labor laws at an event in Woodstock on April 8 as part of a statewide tour asking municipalities to support the overhaul.

In attendance were eight county board members, who the next day approved a largely symbolic resolution supporting the governor's proposal. The event also was attended by members of the media, including the Northwest Herald and other municipal leaders.

Rauner wants local governments to enact right-to-work laws by referendum and eliminate prevailing wage laws and other unfunded mandates. Critics of his "Turnaround Agenda" say its a union-busting measure that will hurt middle-class families.

The county board members who attended – Chairman Joe Gottemoller, Tina Hill, Yvonne Barnes, James Heisler, Nick Provenzano, Charles Wheeler, Michele Aavang and Larry Smith – constituted a majority of a quorum, and therefore violated the Open Meetings Act because the public wasn't properly notified of the meeting in advance, the lawsuit states. Furthermore, union members who attended were turned away by uniformed police officers, according to the union.

There are 24 members of the McHenry County Board; 13 members constitute a quorum, and seven make up a majority of a quorum.

The day after Rauner's visit, the County Board passed a largely symbolic, nonbinding resolution in support of the "Turnaround Agenda." It passed on 16-5 vote, over the objections of union members. Of those who attended the meeting with Rauner, all but Hill approved the resolution.

“The governor strong-armed McHenry County into passing his resolution, and he did it behind closed doors, out of public sight,” president and business manager of Local 150 James Sweeney said in a statement. “The people of McHenry County are entitled to attend gatherings of its board, but in this case, they were denied. Less than 24 hours later, the board passed the resolution with overwhelming public opposition.”

When reached Tuesday night, Gottemoller said he hadn't been served with the lawsuit and couldn't immediately comment.

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