Operating Engineers Charge County Board with Open Meetings Act Violation

Here’s the guts of the case:

Woodstock Opera House one summer when the painted horses were all over the Downtown area.

Woodstock Opera House one summer when the painted horses were all over the Downtown area.

On or about April 7, 2015, a meeting to discuss the Governor’s resolution at the Woodstock Opera House was scheduled for April 8, 2015. Governor Rauner, members of the Woodstock City Council, members of the McHenry County Board, and three members of the press were notified of the meeting.

On information and belief, the public was not notified of this meeting, nor was an agenda posted at the McHenry County Building, on the McHenry County Board website, or at the Woodstock Opera House in advance of the meeting…

On April 8, 2015, at 8:00 AM, Governor Rauner, members of the Woodstock City Council, and at least eight of the twenty-four McHenry County Board members arrived at the Woodstock Opera House to discuss the Governor’s “Turnaround Agenda” resolution as well as other public matters. The members of the McHenry County Board in attendance included, at a minimum: Yvonne Barnes (District 1), James L. “Jim” Heisler (District 2), Chairman Joseph Gottemoller (District 3), Nick Provenzano (District 3), Charles “Chuck” Wheeler (District 4), Tina Hill (District 5), Michele Aavang (District 6), and Larry W. Smith (District 6). Under McHenry County Board rules, a quorum of the Board is thirteen (13) members. A majority of that quorum was present at the Opera House meeting with the Governor.

Upon information and belief, the members of the McHenry County Board in attendance did not vote to close the meeting, nor did they cite any specific exemption in the Open Meetings Act that would have allowed closure of the meeting.

Members of the public, some of whom were union-supporters, also arrived at the Woodstock Opera House to attend the meeting on April 8, 2015 at 8:00 AM and sought to participate in the discussion. However, the members of the public were banned from entering the public building by uniformed officers of the Woodstock Police Department. The Police told the members of the public that they were not allowed in the meeting or the building and that the meeting was by invitation only. The members of the public were not permitted to enter the building or attend the meeting.

The meeting at the Opera House began at approximately 8:00 AM. During the meeting, Governor Rauner discussed the provisions of his proposed “Turnaround Agenda” resolution. Several individuals present voiced concerns about the legality of the resolution in light of the Attorney General’s opinion, and how the resolution would impact the Illinois Local Government Distributive Funds. Governor Rauner responded to these concerns and told the group that if they passed his proposed resolution, he would not need to cut their Local Government Distributive Funds “as much.”

In addition, several members of the McHenry County Board discussed their views on the specifics of the pending “Turnaround Agenda” resolution and whether they would support the resolution during their County Board Regular Meeting the following day. Specifically, Chairman Gottemoller spoke with his fellow Board members in support of Governor Rauner’s resolution, and at least one member of the Board encouraged other members to vote in favor of the Governor’s resolution at the Regular Meeting the following day.

Upon information and belief, no one took minutes of the meeting, no one made a verbatim recording of the meeting, and no one made available minutes of the meeting for public inspection at the County Building or on the County Board’s website.

The photo of Governor Bruce Rauner with eight McHenry County Board members used as evidence that an illegal meeting was held.

The photo of Governor Bruce Rauner with eight McHenry County Board members used as evidence that an illegal meeting was held.

On April 8, 2015, McHenry County posted pictures of the Opera House meeting on its Facebook page, showing Governor Rauner meeting with members of the County Board (Exhibit A attached hereto). The caption for the Facebook post read, “Photos from the Governor’s visit this morning to the Woodstock Opera House to discuss the Turnaround Agenda and how it will empower voters with more local control”. One of the photos shows Governor Rauner posing with an eight (8)-member majority of the thirteen (13)-member quorum of the Board; including:

  • Yvonne Barnes (District 1)
  • James L. “Jim” Heisler (District 2)
  • Chairman Joseph Gottemoller (District 3)
  • Nick Provenzano (District 3)
  • Charles “Chuck” Wheeler (District 4)
  • Tina Hill (District 5)
  • Michele Aavang (District 6)
  • Larry W. Smith (District 6).

On April 9, 2015, at 9:00 AM, the McHenry County Board held its Regular Meeting. During the meeting, the Board considered and voted 16-5 to pass Governor Rauner’s proposed resolution as written, despite vigorous opposition by a packed room of residents and other interested parties. Of those in attendance at the Opera House meeting the day prior, all but one voted in support of the Governor’s resolution. [Hill voted against the resolution.]

As a direct and proximate result of the circumstances of these Open Meetings Act violations, Plaintiffs and the citizens of McHenry County have cause to question the integrity and process of the McHenry County Board as well as the integrity of the discussion and ultimate vote on the Governor’s resolution.

Local 150 asks for for the following relief:

  • an injunction prohibiting the McHenry County Board from committing future violations of the Illinois Open Meetings Act
  • minutes from the April 8, 2015 Opera House meeting
  • costs and fees

Declaring null and void the County Board’s passing of the Governor’s “Turnaround Agenda” resolution during the April 9, 2015 Regular Meeting, or, alternatively, declaring null and void any votes cast on the Governor’s resolution during the April 9, 2015 Regular Meeting by members of the County Board who were in attendance at the April 8, 2015 Opera House meeting

The only local attorney mentioned in the filing is Mark Gummerson.  The others all work for the union local.

= = = = =
The resolution in question was a non-binding expression of the McHenry County Board’s opinion.


Operating Engineers Charge County Board with Open Meetings Act Violation — 18 Comments

  1. Voting on the resolution was a waste of our tax $$$$, and so is this BS lawsuit.

  2. This is a political mistake by a local trade union.

    They are being manipulated into filing this idiocy by people far more powerful and it is a mistake.

    Local 150 has done many good things in the community but they are now following morons with a losing agenda.

    Grow a brain 150.

    Don’t follow betterroadsahead.org, the shell name for union groups fundamentally opposed to any reform which stops the gravy train.

    If Local 150 cannot grow an independent streak and stand on their own two feet philosophically they will be tossed in the dust heap with the rest of the useless parasites who damage our county, our state and our nation.

    I don’t want to see trade unions die but if they cannot separate from those cancerous parasites who do nothing but destroy they will reap what they sow.

  3. Chicago Commercial Club who has members like Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner and big Chicago business leaders make laws when ordinary people should be involved.

  4. If the McHenry County Board did not give proper notification for the meeting, IUOE has a good point, but the end result will not change.

    Rauner won by a big margin in McHenry County.

    So if IOUE wins, what happens, the McHenry County Board holds another meeting, and passes the resolution again.

    And the Board should enforce meeting decorum rules in such a case.

    Private sector union pensions such as IUOE are not nearly as generous as the public sector pensions in Illinois.

  5. Even Union / Democrat stronghold, Rockford, voted in favor of the Rauner plan.

  6. Ooopsie , gosh golly – Is this another incorrect OMA meeting?

    Are all the staff members and board members really this unknowing about the content of the law?

    Or do they just do things to see if they can get away with it?

    This is Illinois so the 2nd comment is most likely accurate. How about voting them out or recalling them immediately to teach them about the law in no uncertain terms.

  7. It was a non binding resolution so what injury does Local 150 have?


    They’re bullies and just want to push around the county board.

    They can’t even muster more than five votes!

    I agree with Priest, unless Local 150 has something to offer they will fade away.

    Look at its membership about 1/2 are retired.

    They can’t attract new members of its own business agents are not even willing to speak up at the public meeting.

    Local 150 claims opposition at the meeting.

    Local 150 Business Agent Chuck August was at the county board meeting.

    Did their own goon chirp up at the meeting?


    He sat silent and slithered out the back door before the vote.

  8. Who held the April 8th meeting at the Opera House?

    The City of Woodstock?

    The State of Illinois?

    The Republican Party?

  9. Was the meeting location a public building?

    Public Meetings MUST be held in public buildings, not a private building.

    If it was private then that specific issue is an OMA violation.

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