Benton City Council Reported for Allegedly Violating Open Meetings Act

Benton City Council Reported for Allegedly Violating Open Meetings Act

It seems the Benton City Council has violated the state’s Open Meetings Act regarding a portion of its meeting dealing with airport issues on Oct. 23. A Benton resident, Julie Payne-Hubler, notified the Illinois Attorney’s General office on Oct. 30 saying the council allegedly had improper discussions regarding an airport wildlife fence project and request for qualifications process for new airport engineering services in closed session. That’s according to the Benton News.

Employment of an engineer and complaints about the past performance of engineer Jim Brown was discussed. The council could not make a decision on the airport fence project because IDOT requires an engineer to be employed before it moves forward on the project.

According to a determination letter released last week by the AG’s office, it stated that the council improperly discussed matters that were outside the scope of the exception to the general requirement that public bodies conduct business openly on which it relied to close a portion of its Oct. 23 meeting.

State officials on Nov. 2 requested items from the Oct. 23 meeting including agendas, open and closed minutes and closed session recordings along with written response on the alleged violations. The council denied Payne-Hubler’s allegations in a written response on Nov. 23. Payne-Hubler replied in kind that day arguing the council’s response was inconsistent with its actions at the meeting. The council took no action on the items at the meeting.

The city will now comply with a request by the AG’s office to release portions of the executive session that should have been discussed in the public portion of the meeting. Action on this issue is expected to take place at the council’s next meeting on Dec. 27.