Open Meetings Act Loophole Closed through Bipartisan Breen Legislation Signed into Law by Governor

Illinois’ Open Meetings Act (OMA) now includes stronger protections for citizens to remedy open meetings violations, thanks to bipartisan legislation sponsored by State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) that was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on Friday.

HB 5683, signed into law as Public Act 99-0714, closes a loophole and improves government transparency by extending the timeframe during which citizens who file OMA grievances with the IL Attorney General’s office can seek remedy in the court system. Before hiring an attorney, it is common for citizens to bring their grievance to the Attorney General’s office for an opinion as to whether a violation to the OMA has occurred. “Folks were deprived of their day in court under the prior open meetings law,” said Breen. “Often, the Attorney General’s investigation of an open meetings complaint would take longer than the 60-day deadline for a citizen to go to court. This new law will now ensure that the clock for court action doesn’t start until after the Attorney General issues her ruling on an open meetings complaint.”

A bipartisan initiative, Breen worked with Democrat and Republican representatives from across the state to secure unanimous support for the bill in the House. Republican State Senator Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst) carried the bill in the Senate, where it also received unanimous support.

According to Breen, the need for the bill was brought to light as a result of a situation involving an OMA violation at the College of DuPage (COD), when a local resident asked the AG office to issue an opinion on the legality of a vote by the former COD Board of Trustees to extend the contract of then-COD President Robert Breuder.

“The Attorney General’s office agreed that a clear violation had occurred and they issued a reprimand to the board members who ignored the provisions of the Open Meetings Act,” Breen said. “But since that decision was issued more than 60 days after the challenged action, the citizen was unable to go to court and get that employment contract voided. Taxpayers in DuPage and surrounding counties are now having to pay the price for that costly and illegal contract.”