If laws are for good people to break then I missed something in school. If so then we certainly need not expand the county jail. Instead we should let those “good people” out.
The library tax levy is in front of the city council for 2nd reading Dec. 13. The city attorney advised the mayor and city council to approve that levy without question, without choice.
That is absurd. The city council must approve a levy assembled in violation of numerous state laws? It seems the library board is determined to proceed with plans to acquire property with public funds but without public approval because: 1) They’re good people. 2) Its the library. 3) The Board is appointed, not elected, and therefore not answerable to the voters, taxpayers, the mayor, the city council or anyone else for that matter.
Possible Open Meetings Act (OMA) violations:
- 11.20.2007: Minutes of the November 14, 2007 regular scheduled meeting report that the Library’s property tax levy would be voted on at a Special Meeting to be held Tuesday, November 20th. There is no published agenda for this meeting. There are no minutes available. OMA requires both an agenda and minutes to be taken for open, closed and even special meetings.
- 04.12.2008: Agenda items for this “entirely closed session” were “Travel to Remote Sites – Visit to Other Libraries.” These items are not among the 24 closed session exemptions allowed under OMA. The purpose of the meeting was to get ideas for building a new library which is far beyond the scope of discussing a real estate transaction.
- 07.30.2008: According to the agenda the Building Program was the topic for the closed session meeting. The Building Program is a proposal to build a new library and as such is not an exemption allowed under OMA.
- 11.18.2009: This is one of eleven (11) special meetings dating back to March 19, 2008 called by the Board in which minutes are not available. The agenda for this meeting included approving the Library’s tax levy request and by the vote taken in closed session of the Aug. 11, 2010 Review of Closed Session Minutes, no minutes will be available. Withholding minutes related to the library’s tax levy is clearly a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
- 05.12.2010: At 9:10 PM, after a closed session board meeting Dee Coover has the signed contract, according to her email to Gary Cordes. The board voted to approve the $1.8 million contract in closed session — an OMA violation.
- 06.09.2010: The published agenda states that the Board would go into closed session without any reference for cause or exemption under the Open Meetings Act. Minutes from that meeting state “Board voted to go into Closed Session at 8:04 p.m. Board came out of Closed Session at 8:46 p.m.” As is consistently the case, the Board failed to report on any summary or detail as to the reason for the closed session or of any decisions.
- 07.13.2010: The DPL board met with architects in closed session to discuss new building plans.
Following the July 13th meeting the Daily Chronicle and DeKalb County Online filed separate reports of Open Meetings Act violations. That action led to an investigation by the State’s Attorney (John Farrell) about the May 12 closed session to enter into a $1.8 million purchase agreement for the DeKalb Clinic properties.
Judge Kurt Klein signed an October 5 consent decree between Farrell and the library board on two of the Open Meetings Act violations.
From the October 11, 2010 DeKalb city council minutes (Citizens Comments):
Mr. Mac McIntyre, DeKalb, Illinois requested that the City Council investigate the Library Board signing a contract to purchase the old DeKalb Clinic building in closed session. In doing so, the Board broke the law, he said. He added that $1.8 million of public tax dollars were approved to be spent in closed sessions. Tax levies are public, and not to be decided in closed sessions. He added that $1.8 million is equal to their annual operating budget. Mr. McIntyre asked that Council call for an investigation into the matter with a public report, and also that Council set aside the purchase until the findings are made public.
I also announced that if necessary I would file for an injunction against the library board to prevent that $1.8 million to be spent on property acquisition. But at its October 13 meeting, the library board voted to terminate the agreement to purchase the DeKalb Clinic properties, citing environmental issues.
(75 ILCS 5/) Illinois Local Library Act
From the Daily Chronicle:
The Illinois Local Library Act states: “The library taxes provided for in this Act shall be levied by the corporate authorities in the amounts determined by the board and collected in like manner with other general taxes of the city, village, incorporated town or township and the proceeds shall be deposited in a special fund, which shall be known as the library fund.”
The act goes on to say that any expenditures from the library shall be under the direction of its board.
“The state statute is clear,” [Norma] Guess said. “…The corporate authority shall approve the levy.”
The Illinois Local Library Act is more than the one sentence (75 ILCS 5/3-5) quoted above.
It is clear that the library board and the City of DeKalb, as the corporate authority, failed to adhere to procedures for accumulating funds (75 ILCS 5/5‑1).
Whenever the board of trustees of any public library organized under this Act determines to erect a building to be used as a library, or to purchase a site for the same, or to purchase a building [...] The board shall make a record of their proceedings and determinations and transmit a copy thereof to the corporate authorities for their consideration and approval.
The DeKalb Public Library and the City of DeKalb appear determined to stay on plan to expand the library without public approval — because they can. But in violating the law they have denied voters due process. If they followed 75 ILCS 5/3 in total, for example, any citizen could have petitioned for the initiative to be placed on the ballot.
So there appears to be four options:
- Accept it that this is Illinois and this is what our government has become. It is what it is.
- File for an injunction asking the courts to intervene. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1971) (‘Once a right and a violation have been shown, the scope of a district court’s equitable powers to remedy past wrongs is broad, for breadth and flexibility are inherent in equitable remedies.’).
- Ask the newly elected States Attorney to seek a legal opinion and remedy from the Illinois Attorney General.
- (75 ILCS 5/2‑7) Sec. 2‑7. Dissolution for failure to perform duties.
(a) If the board of trustees of a public library established under this Act has failed to perform its duties and functions under this Act, then a petition for dissolution that is signed by at least 1% of the electors in the municipality or township may be filed with the clerk of the circuit court of the county in which the public library, or the predominant portion thereof, is located. The petition must (i) clearly define the territory embraced in such public library, (ii) set forth the name of the public library, and (iii) set forth sufficient facts establishing that, within the 3‑year period immediately prior to the filing of the petition, the board of trustees:
(1) failed to hold regular meetings of the board;
(2) failed to pass an annual appropriation ordinance or to levy taxes for the purposes of the district; or
(3) failed to perform the duties and functions imposed by law.
(b) Upon the filing of a petition under subsection (a), the circuit judge shall set a date and time for a judicial hearing on the petition. At least 20 days prior to the hearing date, the clerk of the circuit court shall give notice of the time and place of the hearing by publication in one or more daily or weekly newspapers having a general circulation within the municipality or township.
(c) If, at the hearing under subsection (b), the circuit judge finds that the petition meets the requirements of subsection (a) and that the allegations set forth in the petition are true, then he or she shall enter an order dissolving the public library. If the public library is dissolved by the circuit court under this Section, then the affairs of the public library must be disposed of in the manner as provided in this Act. [...]
From the beginning of this whole ordeal I have maintained that the DeKalb Public Library is not above the law and that it owes the public a full account of this matter. The City of DeKalb has fiduciary responsibilities in making sure that the library’s property tax levy was done according to law.
Of the four options I like the last the most. Voter participation sends the strongest message.
75 ILCS 5/ Local Library Act