Minutes range from meetings of the Ambulance Oversight Committee dating back to 2014.
Effingham, ill – Earlier Today, the Effingham County Board held a special meeting at 3:30pm.
The special meeting was open to the public, and opened up the closed minutes regarding the change of ambulance companies.
During the meeting the board was addressing the alleged incident where they had been in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA), “any person violating any of the provisions of this act except subsection (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of section 1.05 shall be guilty of a Class C Misdemeanor”.
Latent hostility already filled the boardroom as concerned citizens we worried of the actions that the board was going to consider after being exposed for the alleged violations.
As the meeting was called to order, Board Chair James Niemann, asked if anyone wished to address any agenda/non agenda item. Straightaway a concerned citizen stood with a copy of Today’s Effingham Daily News.
During his remarks the citizen referenced the publication, and then stated, “it says you violated the law, but it was an honest mistake”.
The citizen and so went on to ask, “Does that leave it for anyone in the County to get pass? Is there going to be any legal repercussions?”
In a sharp rebuttal, Niemann instantly asked the citizen if he understood criminal law.
Before the citizen had an chance to react Niemann went on to convey, the three things needed for a crime to have been committed:
- The body of the crime (Letter of the law)
- The act itself
- Mensrea (mental intent to commit the crime)
Niemann admitted the board had done the act, however according to him there was no mental intent, so the violation had not occurred.
He reiterated to the citizen that there were not going to be any free passes for anyone
The concerned citizen responded to the comments made by the chair adding that he expected for the “County Board to be held at a higher standard.
After the remarks, Niemann shared with the board a letter given to him by the attorney general stating that they have all been scheduled to attend an optional training OMA.
According to Niemann, this training was considered much to a greater extent, an enhanced version of the original training the board had already completed.
Letter Received from State Attorney Bryan M. Kibler: Letter from Kibler
After the discussion the apparent motion was made to allow for all the minutes of the closed meetings from the ambulance oversight committee to be released.
The released minutes date from July 1, 2014 through April 25, 2017. The vote was unanimously passed by the board.
It’s very discerning that the board delayed releasing the minutes as long as they did from all of these meetings, and transparency hadn’t been much of a priority.
Nonetheless, Niemann shared inside information behind the subject.
After the adjourned meeting, Chair Niemann shared the cause for the extended delays.
“What had happened was that we were involved in a suit with the previous ambulance company (Altamont Ambulance).”
“Until the case was completely settled, and signed off by the presiding judge, then we could not publish the closed session minutes.”
Niemann explained how some meetings had to deal with counseling over the case with their lawyers, and strategizing over how the case was going to be handled.
The board was concerned over whether everything was going to be accepted by the judge. Niemann did add everything had been settled as of last September, and Today was their first chance to publish the information.
Niemann wanted to urge that transparency was a priority, and one of the reasons for why the board allegedly rushed onward with this issue.
After a word over certain parts of the IOMA with the Attorney General’s Office, there was a request to release the portions of the recorded sessions, however the board decided to release them all.
Niemann felt the original training had failed to thoroughly educate the board on the necessary information to avoid making any violations, and has continued his potent stance of making an honest error.
All the minutes from the closed sessions are now available on the Effingham County Board Website.