Illinois Attorney General Issues Open Meetings Act OpinionAuthor: Kristin Good
Last week, the Illinois Attorney General issued an opinion regarding whether requiring advance notice from parties who intend to record open meetings is a violation of the OMA. In the case at issue, the written policy of a school board required advance notice of recording at board meetings. The policy required an undefined amount of advance notice of intent to record generally (which the Board later clarified was 24 hours’ notice), and 24-hours’ advance notice of intent to record for special requests. A citizen attended a meeting and expressed intent to record immediately prior to the commencement of the meeting; based on the policy, the Board denied the citizen’s request. The Board defended its policy on two main grounds: (1) that the policy fell under the purview of Section 2.05 of the OMA, and (2) that the meetings were held in an elementary school library and children could be inadvertently recorded; as such, notice was needed to plan a location for recording equipment that would ensure student privacy.
Under Section 2.05 of the OMA, “[A]ny person may record the proceedings at meetings required to be open by this Act by tape, film or other means. The authority holding the meeting shall prescribe reasonable rules to govern the right to make such recordings.” The Attorney General previously issued a binding Public Access Counselor Opinion in 2012 that stated that reasonable rules may be created under Section 2.05 “only to the extent that those rules are designed to prevent disruptions or avoid safety hazards and do not unduly interfere with the right to record.”
In this case, the Attorney General determined that the Board’s policy was in violation of the OMA because the policy was not reasonably necessary to prevent interference with the meeting or to protect the safety of those in attendance. The Attorney General placed the burden on the Board to change the location of its meetings or limit children’s presence if it was concerned about children being recorded. The Attorney General further noted that whatever steps needed to be taken to ensure safe, disruption-free recording could have been taken immediately prior to the meeting, and thus 24-hours’ notice was unnecessary and unreasonable.