Saturday, July 12, 2008

Village Clerk David Maher misleads public on letter from the Illinois Attorney General

As much as I try to give public officials who work on our dime the benefit of the doubt, I have to say I am shocked and dismayed over the conduct of Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher.

As you have read below in earlier postings, Mr. Maher asserts that he received a letter from the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan stating, and quoting his letter,

"The Illinois Attorney General has exonerated the Village of Orland Park and in its letter to Mr. Hanania wrote, 'While general public notice is the underlying purpose of the Act’s notice requirements, there is no evidence that the conduct of the Village in this case violates any of the Act’s provisions.' "

No, Mr. Maher, it turns out you took that sentence out of context. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office didn't "exonerate" you at all. In fact, they never used that word. What they said was there was NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE of a violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act by your office.

In fact, the main part of that statement IN CONTEXT relate to another part of the letter and the remainder of that paragraph that you intentionally excluded, which states clearly:

"While the Act does describe certain information that must be contained in a public notice of a special meeting of a public body, it is silent with respect to any additional language or information a public body might include in its posted notices. It is unclear from the information you provided why the Village included such a statement on the posted notice and we would certainly advise that the Village avoid such language in the future, in order to prevent confusion."

The Village is only required to post the notice and THAT WAS NEVER AN ISSUE in my expressed concern regarding this matter. My sole concern is and remains that the village may have intentionally added the language "NOT FOR PUBLICATION" to discourage the media from posting it immediately on their web sites so that the PUBLIC (not the media) would be able to attend. As it turns out, no media published any information prior to this unprecedented special meeting which was of significant importance to the citizens of Orland Park.

The Letter from the Illinois Attorney General, which I received the DAY AFTER the village allegedly received a letter (my letter has no notation that a copy was sent anywhere), emphasizes that ONLY because there is not more information about why the village did what it did, the Illinois Attorney General concluded it was NOT a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

But I will repeat what the letter did say that Mr. Maher conveniently excluded from his letter to me, we reached me the day before the Illinois ATtorney General's Letter:

"we would certainly advise that the Village avoid such language in the future, in order to prevent confusion."

Mr. Maher gave this ridiculousa explatation (see earlier posting below) that the intent of the phrase "NOT FOR PUBLICATION" was:

"This phrase is used to let the media know that paid space is not being purchased for publishing the notice."

Normally, a village will state at the bottom of a letter or posting "Not paid for by public funds." And the purpose of the phrase "NOT FOR PUBLICATION" is clearly to discourage the media from pre-publicizing the event so that members of the public who are not in the media -- and the Illinois Open Meetiings Act is, according to the Illinois Attorney General, designed to inform the media AND the public of public meetings -- could attend the meeting.

No one in the public knew.

Who is playing a game here?

Ray Hanania

Here's the link to the letter sent to me by the Illinois Attorney General:

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Letter to me dated July 9, 2008 and received July 12, 2008, the day after Mr. Maher received his letter: View Letter?

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