2/20/2004 4:36:00 PM Daily News Editorial Doing it right in Palestine
It’s always good to be able to call attention to someone for doing the right thing.
The Daily News reported Thursday that the Palestine Unit 3 school board was violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act by refusing to release the name of an employee who resigned, referred to by the board only as “Employee A.”
This unusual occurrence prompted a check with our state press association; its expert on the law, media attorney Don Craven, essentially told us, “they can’t do that.”
When the Unit 3 board president and superintendent were informed of what had happened, they could have reacted defensively and delayed their response — raising even more questions about the board’s action.
But they didn’t. To the credit of Board President Kaye Holscher, she replied promptly that Unit 3 would release the name if failing to do so would break the law. And to the credit of Superintendent Cal Owens, he responsed promptly with an explanation of his action and an acknowledgement that it was wrong.
“Every place is different, so I will need to do things differently here,” he said today. “That is no problem.”
End of controversy. You can read the rest of the story on Page 1 today.
If more public bodies handled things this way when confronted with a problem — especially one relating to the public’s right to know — fewer issues would get out of hand.
Of course, such problems could be avoided entirely if decision-makers were more familiar with the Illinois Open Meetings Act, and other laws regarding public access to information. Often, especially in communities our size, simple ignorance of the law is the reason — but never an excuse — for such violations.
To help, the Daily News has posted a guide to the Illinois Open Meetings Act on its website, www.robdailynews.com. Go to the Insight and Opinion section and click on the “Your right to know” heading. It’s a PDF file for easy download and printing to any computer. It also includes the full text of the law.
You’ll also find the full text of the latest revision to the OMA — the Verbatim Record Act, which requires public bodies to record closed sessions.
We’ll be adding more resources to this page to help citizens — both decision-makers and other taxpayers — understand and use their rights. These issues of public access are not just press issues — they’re important to all of us. We in the news business just find ourselves on the front lines more often than most folks.
Once again, hats off to Unit 3 for a sensible response to an issue that could have been a lot more difficult than it turned out to be.