Pubdate: Tue, 14 Oct 2008
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2008 The News-Gazette
Author: Mike Monson


URBANA - City council agenda items coming from the city attorney's
office in recent weeks are not being made public on the city's Web

With increasing frequency, items from the city attorney's office are
showing up on the city council and council committee meeting agendas
with no accompanying information.

"There will (be) no packet information on this item except for Council
members and Mayor - please contact Legal if any questions," is the
standard message when a reader on the city's Web site,, clicks on such an agenda item.

At the council's Oct. 6 meeting, the council enacted an ordinance
giving police officers the legal authority to charge someone
possessing cannabis or drug paraphernalia with a city ordinance
violation instead of a state crime. No information about the
ordinance, other than the title, was included in either the committee
or council meeting agendas.

On Monday, a proposed ordinance giving police the power to declare
parties a nuisance under certain circumstances and to close them down
was on the agenda. Violators would also be subject to a $200 fine.

But there was no information on the Web site about what the proposed
ordinance entailed, except for the title.

When The News-Gazette asked for a copy of the cannabis and
nuisance-party draft ordinances, the city attorney's office complied

City Attorney Ronald O'Neal said his office has adopted the policy of
forwarding draft ordinances to Mayor Laurel Prussing and city council

"We let the mayor or city council decide if they're going to
distribute it (to the public) or not," he said.

O'Neal said the practice was adopted because frequently when an
ordinance is being drafted, "there are eight iterations before it sees
the light of day." Sometimes, an earlier draft goes public when
subsequent drafts have been written that contain substantial changes,
resulting in confusion, he said.

"You can ask your council member or the mayor for a copy of the
ordinance," he said.

He also said, "I promise you I will talk to the mayor and my
colleagues and we will give it some consideration. I agree people
should know about legislation before it passes and have a chance to
comment on it."

Prussing was unavailable for comment Monday.

Alderman Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1, said he thinks part of the problem
is that the city's administrative officer position is still vacant. He
said the administrative officer typically would write a cover memo
explaining the ordinance and the rationale behind it and make it public.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin