QUINCY — The Illinois Attorney General’s office wants to see the closed session minutes from the May 10 meeting of the Adams County Board, as well as closed session minutes from the county’s Finance Committee meeting on May 9.
Muddy River News made a Freedom of Information Act request for the May 10 County Board minutes on June 15. The request was denied by Adams County officials.
“I am unable to provide you with a copy of the minutes from the May 10, 2022, Adams County Board executive session as they are currently sealed,” Adams County Clerk Ryan Niekamp wrote. “The Legislative and Judicial Committee will review the minutes within the next six months pursuant to the Open Meetings Act. You have a right to have the denial of your request reviewed by the Public Access Counselor (PAC) at the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.”
Barney Bier, a former state’s attorney in Adams County and a former member of the Adams County Board, asked for the denial request to be reviewed by the AG’s office. The request (shown below) was filed by Bier and signed by several Republicans, some of whom were and are candidates for Adams County Board.
The complaint also is driven by multiple sources who have told Muddy River News that the discussion during the May 10 closed session included the political ramifications of County Board members voting for pay increases shortly before the June 28 primary.
County Board chairman Kent Snider and vice chairman/Finance Committee chair Bret Austin reportedly urged for solidarity on the vote and requested members not discuss the issue with the general public. Snider and Austin signed an e-mail to County Board members (shown below) with details on the salary increases only about four hours before they were expected for vote on the issue:
The agenda of the May 10 County Board meeting (shown below) merely stated there would be a resolution titled “Elected Officials Salary,” with no breakdown or details of the positions that would be discussed. Part of this included a new additional stipend for the chairmen of each of the four County Board committees.
With no public discussion on the issue and limited time to review it, the County Board voted 16-1 (after a roughly 30-minute closed session) to give 9.6 percent raises to themselves and 22 percent raises to committee chairs and the County Board chairman to go into effect on Dec. 1 after a new County Board is sworn in.
Ryan Hinkamper (R-2) was the lone no vote. Board members Dave Bellis (R-3), Les Post (R-6), Taylor Rakers (R-4) and John Brady (R-6) were absent.
The salaries of board members will increase by $404 annually to $4,200. The salaries of the four committee chairmen will increase $1,104 to $4,900, and the County Board chairman’s salary will increase $1,650 to $7,500 annually.
Two current members, Raquel Sparrow (R-3) and David Hoskins (R-7) were defeated in the June 28 Republican Primary. Board members Rakers, Brady, Matt Obert (D-5) and Mark Peter (R-5) are not running for re-election. All other board members are on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Joshua Jones of Chicago, deputy bureau chief for the Public Access Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s office, is handling the official inquiry. He sent two emails on July 6 (shown below) with the letter for the inquiry review — one for the May 10 County Board meting and one for the May 9 Finance Committee meeting.
Austin replied to the AG’s office in less than 20 minutes:
Austin told the AG’s office he had sent details of the raises to the County Board the week before. However, multiple County Board members have said they did not receive details until the May 10 e-mail.
Austin’s May 10 e-mail doesn’t list the day he had sent information to the County Board about the pay increase proposal. Also, details of the raises were not handed to the three members of media covering the meeting until after the executive session concluded and the County Board had voted.
Austin’s response didn’t satisfy the representative from the AG’s office:
Austin’s July 7 response said the Adams County State’s Attorney’s Office would likely be in touch:
Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha said the county had requested an extension to reply, and the AG’s office granted that extension. Farha had no further comment on the County Board’s behalf.
Farha has tasked assistant state’s attorney Josh Jones of Quincy to handle this matter for County Board. Jones (not related to the Josh Jones in the Illinois Attorney General’s office) said he hoped to have a response ready next week.
The Adams County Board did not go into closed session at its July 12 meeting. Multiple County Board members have told Muddy River News neither Snider nor Austin have made them aware of the AG’s inquiry into the matter.
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