The Illinois Open Meetings Act covers all public bodies. The term "public body" includes: all legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies of the state, counties, townships, cities, villages, incorporated towns, school districts and all other municipal corporations, boards, bureaus, committees or commissions of this State, and any subsidiary bodies of any of the foregoing including but not limited to committees and subcommittees which are supported in whole or in part by tax revenue, or which expend tax revenue, except the General Assembly and its committees or commissions.
What is a meeting?
Under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, a meeting is: any gathering, whether in person or by video or audio conference, telephone call, electronic means (such as, without limitation, electronic mail, electronic chat, and instant messaging), or other means of contemporaneous interactive communication, of a majority of a quorum of the members of a public body held for the purpose of discussing public business or, for a 5‑member public body, a quorum of the members of a public body held for the purpose of discussing public business.
The Illinois Open Meetings Act gives the public the right to attend the meetings of public bodies or their committees, with exceptions for closed meetings discussed below. Illinois law does not limit access to meetings to a specific category or people or a profession, such as the "traditional" press. Anyone may attend.
The Illinois Open Meetings Act expressly provides members of the public with an opportunity to comment at public meetings. At Glenview public meetings, we ask member of the public to submit an "intent to comment" form with the secretary of the body. The Village of Glenview generally limits comments to no more than three minutes. (Note: During the coronavirus pandemic with public meetings held virtually, public comments are accepted in advance of meetings through eComment on the Village's website. The public can also participate during public comment portions of the meeting on Zoom by "raising a hand" and being unmuted by the meeting administrator. Instructions on these comment options are included on the meeting agenda.)
Meeting notice requirements
Illinois law requires public bodies and their committees to give notice to the public of its meetings. At the beginning of each calendar or fiscal year, each body must give the public notice of the schedule of regular meetings for the year, including the dates, times and places of the meetings. A public body must also post an agenda for each regular meeting at its principal office and at the location where the meeting is to be held at least 48 hours in advance. A public body with a regularly maintained website must also post the agenda of regular meetings on the site.
A public body may also hold special meetings , which are meetings not on the regular schedule. The public body must post notice at least 48 hours in advance for any special meeting. This notice must include the agenda for the special meeting. If an emergency meeting is called for, a public body must give notice "as soon as practicable, but in any event prior to the holding of such meeting" to any news medium which has filed an annual request for notice.
What is a public hearing?
Public hearings are often a statutory requirement as a prerequisite to the adoption of certain ordinances, particularly those ordinances that relate to planning, zoning and tax increment financing. At a public hearing on a zoning or development matter, the applicant or development will be permitted to make a presentation to support its application. In addition, members of the public will be allowed to present testimony, both in writing and verbally, during the hearing to either support or oppose the matter that is the subject of the hearing.
Minutes and recordings
All public bodies and their committees must keep written minutes of open meetings and make them available to the public for inspection. If a public body has a website, it must post the minutes on the website as well. In addition, public bodies and their committees are required to keep a verbatim record of all their closed meetings (see below) in the form of an audio or video recording, but they do not have to make these available to the public.
Closed meetings/executive sessions
The general rule is that all meetings of public bodies and their committees must be open to the public, but a public body may hold a closed meeting or session if it identifies a special statutory exemption. Under the Illinois Open Meetings Act, a public body may hold a closed meeting or session when it addresses one of 24 subject-area exemptions found in 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. 120/2(c). In order to do so, however, the public body must also follow these procedural requirements:
- A majority of members must vote during an open meeting to close a meeting or portion of a meeting, and the vote of each member must be recorded in the minutes.
- The public body must record in the minutes of any open meeting the specific statutory exception upon which it is relying to close the meeting.
- The public body must also make a verbatim recording of all closed meetings, but these recordings are not open to the public for inspection. State statute requires public bodies to retain the verbatim recordings of executive sessions for a period of 18 months, after which the recordings can be approved for destruction.
- On a semi-annual basis, the public body reviews its executive session meeting minutes to determine whether these minutes are ready for release to the public or should remain confidential.