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Recordings related to school repayment issue are released

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A desire to be open and transparent is behind the Board’s recent decision to release complete video recordings of two closed meetings held in mid- 2007. At those meetings, discussions were held concerning repayment by Maroa-Forsyth School District to the Village for sales tax revenues used to build the Maroa-Forsyth Grade School.

The closed session meetings were noted during a review by independent counsel hired by the Village to conduct research to determine why the repayment agreement was never completed.

The closed meetings, held May 21, 2007, and June 4, 2007, were cited in counsel’s independent legal report made public during a special Nov. 30 Board meeting, but not revealed in full until Dec. 19 when trustees voted unanimously to do so upon the recommendation of Village Administrator Heather Kimmons. Residents can view the two closed sessions on the Village’s website at Each runs about 30 minutes, Kimmons said.

“What concerned me was while the Board [in 2007] voted on legitimate exceptions to go into closed session for a legal purpose, they talked about financing the elementary school construction, which was not an appropriate topic for closed session,” Kimmons said. Kimmons, an attorney formerly employed in the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and herself an author of sections of the amended Open Meetings Act, said two options existed for the Village: Either do nothing and take the chance that the issue of a potential Open Meetings Act violation could be later raised, or self-report the matter. The Board chose to self-report the perceived violation to the attorney general’s Public Access Counselor.

Kimmons said it is rare but appreciated when a local government body submits a “self-report” to the attorney general’s office, and she advised trustees that she believed the matter would be judged “an innocent mistake.” The Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor has not formally replied to a letter from the Village advising that the closed session minutes and video recordings were released.

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