Will County Board members abruptly stopped their meetings Tuesday after the state’s attorney’s office said that wording on public notices needed to be changed for the meetings to be held.
The hard stop came about in the middle of the Capital Improvements Committee meeting after Speaker Mimi Cowan told members they had to adjourn without specifying why. Cowan later told The Herald-News the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office said the wording on a preface to the agenda for Tuesday’s meetings was not “legally sufficient” to allow members to attend virtually, as some were doing.
Carole Cheney, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office, said the concern over the language was technical and that it “wasn’t anything intentional.” She said officials just wanted to ensure the language in the public notices reflected what state law allowed as the reason for public bodies to not hold in-person meeting.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the board mirrored other public bodies in holding its meetings virtually. County officials had said they were expecting to resume in-person meetings in August, but the recent rise in new COVID-19 cases prompted a change in plans.
The preface to the agenda for Tuesday’s meetings stated Cowan “determined that in-person meetings as the only option is not practical nor prudent” and cited the number of local cases and public health guidelines.
The board was essentially holding hybrid meetings with some members attending in person at the county’s Joliet office building and some attending virtually.
Cowan said that because the need to change the preface’s verbiage, the board had to stop its scheduled meetings for Tuesday and reschedule them – and likely for some time next week as well.
Cowan said they essentially will have to hold a “do-over” meeting because the board members already had conducted their Public Works meeting just before the Capital Improvements meeting. The board also had its Finance and ad-hoc Reapportionment committees scheduled to meet Tuesday.
Cowan also said the board will be able to hold its committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday since the prefaces to those agendas can be changed beforehand. The board is not changing the business on the agenda ahead of those meetings, as an agenda needs to be finalized and published two full days before the meeting is held per state law.