On September 4, 2014, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office released a binding opinion through its Public Access Counselor (PAC) that public bodies cannot require speakers to provide personal information such as a home address as a prerequisite to speak during the public comment period of a public body meeting.
In PAC Op. 14-009, a resident of the Village of Lemont wished to speak at the Lemont Village Board meeting on April 14, 2014. Prior to speaking, the Board requested that the resident provide her full home address. The resident refused and attempted to continue speaking when she was interrupted and instructed again to give her full home address. After a heated exchange, the resident decided to give her full address before continuing. Following this board meeting, the resident filed a request for review with the PAC, alleging that the Board pressured and forced her to state her home address before being permitted to provide public comment. In response to the complaint, the Board asserted that the requirement is not a rule, but a custom that enables the Board to keep accurate minutes as well as track speakers who are residents.
The PAC held that the Board violated Section 2.06(g) of the Open Meetings Act, first, by not including this requirement as a condition for public comment in the Board’s recorded rules. The PAC then went further, holding that even if the Board had established and recorded such a rule, doing so would have exceeded the scope of the Board’s rulemaking authority. The PAC reasoned that the language of Section 2.06(g) does not support a requirement that compels a speaker to provide their full home address prior to speaking at a Board meeting. Additionally, the PAC noted that such a rule may have a chilling effect on individuals who wish to participate in the Board meeting. This case serves as a caution that actions by public bodies pursuant to the Open Meetings Act will be highly scrutinized.