Attorney General Rules Town Of Normal Violated Open Meetings Act | WGLT

Attorney General Rules Town Of Normal Violated Open Meetings Act

Mar 16, 2021

The Illinois attorney general has ruled the Town of Normal violated the Open Meetings Act in mid-September 2019 by denying Marc Tiritilli the right to speak to the council about public transit because the topic was not on the agenda.

Tiritilli is now running for mayor and has criticized the administration for squelching opposing points of view.

At the time, Tiritilli said transit was germane to the agenda that included an appointment to the Connect Transit board and that other speakers had talked about the topic. He later appealed the decision not to let him speak.

In his filing, Tiritilli said Mayor Chris Koos "interrupted him twice and informed him that the matter was not an agenda matter, despite allowing other members of the public to freely discuss matters not on the agenda."

An attorney for the town argued, in part, the council didn't have to let Tiritilli talk because the relevant section of the law on the right of citizens to address public officials didn't specifically say "at meetings."

The Feb. 22 opinion by the AG's office said in effect the Open Meetings (OMA) ct is about meetings, all sections of the law connect to others, and that the town's interpretation of the act was not "reasonable."

"The right to public comment is not limited to agenda items," wrote Edie Steinberg, senior assistant attorney general in the Public Access division. "Given that the public body itself is able to discuss matters that are not specifically listed on the agenda, a rule that would prohibit members of the public from addressing matters that are not listed on the agenda would impermissibly restrict the right to public comment."

That doesn't mean people can talk to the council about just anything. Steinberg also cited other case law that established the public comment has to be directly relevant to the business of the public body.

The town council changed its rules in October 2020 in a way that would have allowed Tiritilli to speak. It set up separate times for public comment -- one for items on the agenda and another for items relevant to town business.

Because of that change, Steinberg wrote, the attorney general is not demanding further action by the town.

Editor's note: This story has been changed to clarify the meeting in question was in 2019.

There's no subscription fee to listen or read our stories. Everyone can access this essential public service thanks to community support. Donate now, and help fund your public media.