PAC Opines that RIF Joint Committee Meetings are Subject to the Open Meetings Act
Nov 4, 2016
On September 8, 2016, the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor (“PAC”) issued a non-binding decision to School District 46, in which it opined that meetings of its RIF Joint Committee are subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”). This would include posting notice and agendas, keeping minutes, allowing time for public comments, properly entering closed session, and keeping a verbatim recording of all closed sessions. A PAC non-binding decision is not an enforceable decision.
The PAC non-binding decision here was the result of a request made to the PAC by a member of the public who claimed that the December 18, 2013 meeting of School District 46’s RIF Joint Committee was held without public notice in violation of the OMA. More than 2 ½ years after the PAC received the request, the PAC concluded that the RIF Joint Committee is an advisory or subsidiary body the school district and, therefore, a “public body” subject to the OMA.  In short, the PAC reached its decision based on the following factors:
- Although the RIF Joint Committee’s creation and duties originate in the School Code and it does not have by-laws, its operations and functions are inextricably connected to those of the school district.
- The RIF Joint Committee makes binding decisions concerning groupings, reports to the Board of Education, and has a statutorily-defined role that makes it part of the formal organizational structure of the school district, which is a primary consideration in determining whether a public body is subject to the OMA.
- The RIF Joint Committee is an established part of the school district’s formal process for determining the order of honorable dismissal and exists to advise the District.
We believe that the PAC’s non-binding decision is inconsistent with the OMA and that there are compelling arguments that meetings of a school district’s RIF Joint Committee are not subject to the requirements of the OMA. It is important to note the following in connection with the PAC’s non-binding decision:
- While this decision is not enforceable, the PAC may follow the same rationale in other cases where a district’s RIF Joint Committee meets without following the requirements of the OMA and a similar request for review is filed with the PAC. In such instances, the PAC could issue a binding decision. If a civil action were ever filed regarding this particular issue, the PAC’s non-binding decision could serve as persuasive authority for the court.
- At the same time, if a district decides to follow the requirements of the OMA for future RIF Joint Committee meetings as a result of the PAC’s non-binding decision, we believe it will be difficult to draw the line for compliance only with regard to RIF Joint Committee meetings. Consequently, your school district may have to evaluate and determine what other committee meetings may be subject to the requirements of the OMA.
Should you have questions regarding the implications of this non-binding decision, please contact any Robbins Schwartz attorney.
The PAC also concluded that the RIF Joint Committee does not engage in collective bargaining negotiations and, thus, the meetings were not excused from the requirements of the OMA.