Black Hawk College on Wednesday released a synopsis of part of a closed session discussion held by the college's trustees after The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus contended part of the discussion should have been in public.
The college Board of Trustees convened a special meeting on Tuesday night to discuss replacing former member Sonia Berg, who resigned effective Nov. 15.
The board accepted her resignation in open session, then went into closed session to discuss the matter further. Afterward, BHC President Thomas Baynum said trustees discussed strategies for finding a successor for Ms. Berg, but reached no decision.
The newspapers on Wednesday asked Illinois Press Association attorney Don Craven to review the board's decision to discuss process in closed session. Mr. Craven said a community college board can meet in closed session to consider the selection of a person to fill a public office, but when they are discussing process, the meeting cannot be closed
"When the board gets to the point it is considering a specific person, the meeting can be closed," Mr. Craven said.
After being contacted on Wednesday about the matter, the college released a statement in the afternoon, providing information about the discussion.
"In discussing potential candidates to fill the vacancy resulting from the resignation of Sonia Berg, the board considered the proximity to the April election, whether the process used to appoint candidates to earlier vacancies was appropriate and what attributes they should look for in the candidates," the statement said.
The statement also cited the portions of Illinois' Open Meeting Act the board used to hold the closed session:
"Public bodies may hold closed sessions to consider the following topics: The selection of a person to fill a public office ... including a vacancy in a public office, when the public body is given power to appoint under law or ordinance, or the discipline, performance or removal of the occupant of a public office, when the public body is given power to remove the occupant under law or ordinance. 5 ILCS 120/2(c)(3)."
Black Hawk public relations director John Meineke, who issued the statement, said the board also discussed potential candidates but he could not provide further information about them.
Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday. The board is expected to continue discussions and a closed session is anticipated.