Board chief admits mistake asking public to leave before vote
GILMAN — The president of the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department Board admitted Thursday that he made a mistake this week when he instructed the public to leave the board's meeting room before a vote had been taken to enter closed session.
But he and other officials insisted that no laws were broken.
An audio/video recording of the board's May 20 meeting shows the board's president, Dr. Kevin Brucker, asking the public to exit the meeting room at the Gilman-Danforth District Library. Brucker did so even though the board had yet to vote to enter closed session as required by the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
"I think that was partly my fault because we hadn't ever had to go into closed session before," Brucker said Thursday.
The recording of the meeting, done by a citizen, ends as the public is complying with Brucker's instruction. The video therefore does not show a vote taken by the board to close the meeting.
But Brucker — as well as three other board members and the health department's attorney — said the required vote did occur.
"Everyone was still in the room when (the vote) occurred — they were all standing up and moving around," Brucker said. "I said, 'All in favor?' but everyone was kind of already moving around — even (board members) at the table were moving around a little bit.
"I think it was hard to see or hard to hear. It should have been done before they were asked to leave."
The motion to enter closed session was made by board member Rod Copas, who is also the Iroquois County Board chairman, a couple of minutes before Brucker instructed the public to leave. Copas said Michelle Fairley later seconded the motion, apparently after members of the public had already left or were leaving the meeting.
Illinois Press Association attorney Don Craven said the motion to enter closed session, a second to that motion and the board's vote on the motion must be done in an "open session." Craven said the timing of the board's vote in this case would be considered, "at most, a technical violation" of the Open Meetings Act.