A collaborative study by the Illinois Press Association (IPA) and the Citizens Advocacy Center has found local government websites continue to be among the worst at keeping the public informed. Illinois’ Open Meetings Act requires all public bodies to post and maintain three key pieces of information on their websites: 1) Notice of upcoming meetings, 2) Notice of proposed agendas and, 3) Approved meeting minutes.
Of the more than 700 public bodies audited, only 73 percent posted notice of upcoming meetings, a mere 57 percent posted proposed agendas, and less than half, 48 percent, complied with the law by posting approved meeting minutes.
This study surveyed an approximate 20 percent random sampling of 102 counties (20), 1,432 townships (298), 866 school districts (176) and 1,312 municipalities (262) in Illinois. While there are many other categories of special taxing bodies in Illinois, the study focused on those public bodies that have the most obvious impact on people’s daily lives.
Key takeaways include the following:
• Posting of this information (meeting notices, agendas and approved minutes) to local government websites is a legal requirement. Failure to do so should be considered a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
• A surprisingly low number of the public bodies surveyed actually maintain a website. The survey showed that of the 756 public bodies surveyed, only 385 have websites (51 percent).
• Municipality Compliance: Only 65 percent are complying with the website notice provision. Notably, municipalities were not very good at posting agendas as compliance with timely posting of an agenda was 54 percent. Timely website posting of approved meeting minutes dropped to a 38 percent compliance rate.
• Township Compliance: Township compliance levels were also low with only 61 percent of those with a website complying with posting notice, 46 percent complying with posting an agenda and 38 percent complying with posting approved meeting minutes.
• County Compliance: Arguably, the worst performing of the public bodies surveyed. Just 39 percent of counties with websites complied with posting notice, 33 percent posting an agenda, and 33 percent for posting approved meeting minutes.
• School District Compliance: The majority, 89 percent, of school districts posted timely notice. However, timely posting of an agenda was poorer, 69 percent overall. The numbers for timely posting of approved meeting minutes was poorer still at 62 percent.
From the Dec. 3-9, 2014, issue