Normal mayor probed for alleged Open Meetings Act violation

Normal council candidate Karyn Smith (right) is seen here with another council hopeful, Stan Nord. (Facebook/Nord for Normal)

By Howard Packowitz

NORMAL – The Illinois Attorney General’s office is investigating whether Normal Mayor Chris Koos violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when he decided a town council candidate should not have been allowed to speak at a recent council meeting.

Karyn Smith asked to speak during the public comment portion of the February 4 council meeting. Smith sought to preserve three buildings set for demolition to make way for the Trail East complex on the northeast portion of Uptown Circle.

Smith was told she could not address the council on a topic that was not on that night’s agenda. However, its exclusion as an agenda item meant the council was choosing not to designate the Beaufort Street buildings as historic landmarks before a deadline passed later that week.

“I don’t control the agenda, so how can you use this as a circular argument for keeping me from speaking on something that you are keeping off the agenda? So I filed an appeal under the Open Meetings Act,” said Smith.

“They knew that by not bringing it up (on the agenda), it would die a quiet death by that Friday,” Smith also said.

A lawyer in the Attorney General’s Public Access Bureau determined “further action is warranted” on Smith’s complaint. Koos is being asked to provide a “detailed written response” explaining why he didn’t allow Smith to speak.

The Mayor declined comment.

This isn’t the first time the Attorney General’s office is investigating alleged Open Meetings Act violations in Normal. Back in 2016, the AG’s office requested the town government remove a rule limiting people from speaking to the council more than once during a 45 day period.

Attorney General spokeswoman Annie Thompson said there are no fines or other penalties if the office finds violations. However, Thompson said local leaders would be briefed on what’s required and how to comply with the Open Meetings Act.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz@cumulus.com

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