The Illinois Attorney General’s office today issued an opinion concluding that Mayor Steve Hagerty violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by calling an emergency City Council meeting for June 30 to discuss opting out of the Cook County minimum wage increase ordinance.
In a letter, Deputy Public Access Counselor Neil P. Olson says considering the opt-out didn’t constitute a bona fide emergency that would justify waiving the 48-hour notice requirement for a special City Council meeting.
Olson concedes that the phrase “bona fide emergency” isn’t defined in the Open Meetings Act and that no Illinois appellate court has addressed the issue.
But, citing a dictionary definition of an emergency as “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action,” Olson concludes that emergency conditions did not exist — since the county ordinance had been passed the previous October and the city could still have opted out after it took effect on July 1.
Hagerty cited actions by the Village of Wilmette on June 27 to opt out of the ordinance and a decision by the Village of Skokie on June 28 to consider opting out as the reason he decided, late on June 28, to call the meeting for 10 a.m. on Friday, June 30.
By the time the meeting actually was held, given a groundswell of opposition to the opt out and concerns about the legality of the meeting, the City Council never took up the opt out measure and spent the meeting listening to minimum wage hike supporters speak in favor of the increase.
Olson, in his letter, says that since no action was taken “no remedial action for the OMA violation is required” and there’s no need to issue a binding opinion.
Four residents — Jeff Axelrod, Betty Ester, Allison Maguire and Jared Schooley — complained to the attorney general’s office about the short notice for the meeting.