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OPEN MEETINGS ACT: Du Quoin school board violated OMA, attorney general rules

By PETE SPITLER
Weekly-Press, Pinckneyville

DU QUOIN – After months of analysis by his office, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has issued a binding opinion that the Du Quoin District 300 Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act during one of its three executive sessions that took place during the school board's April 7 special meeting.

Perry County Weekly-Press Publisher Jeff Egbert submitted a Request for Review to the AG's Public Access Counselor on April 11 seeking a review of the school board's closed sessions during that meeting, which was the one during which a group of Durham School Services bus drivers turned in their gas cards and other employee materials in protest of the board's choice of Durham in continuing to provide student transportation in the district.

The drivers who are not District 300 employees had previously aired their grievances with their employer in Durham to the board during its regular March meeting, with the April 7 meeting being called, in part, to allow the board to take action on the bus contract.

In the opinion released on July 12, Raoul stated the board failed to cite an applicable exception before closing the meeting to the public and improperly held a closed session for discussion of bids for a student transportation contract.

On Monday, July 18, the Du Quoin school board issued the following statement in response to Raoul's opinion: "On July 12, 2022, the Illinois Attorney General's office released Binding Opinion 22010," the statement said. "In that opinion, the Illinois Attorney General's Office concluded that the second of three closed sessions conducted during the April 7, 2022, special meeting of the DCSD 300 Board of Education did not conform to the requirements of section 2A of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

"During the executive session at issue, the Board discussed three competing bids for a student transportation contract. The Board entered the second closed session based on concerns that legal consequences could result from the student transportation bidding process. The Attorney General's Office has determined that those concerns did not meet the relevant exceptions to the Open Meetings Act.

"The Board respects the decision of the Attorney General's Office and will make the verbatim recording and minutes of the second closed session available to the public," the board continued

"The Board remains committed to providing quality public education while operating in a manner that is open and transparent."

During the April 7 meeting, the board heard about a half-hour of open discussion on the bus contract topic before board member Kevin West made a motion to go with Robinson Transportation (whose bid was $345,543 higher than Durham's), that was seconded by board member Crystal Harsy.

The motion failed on a 3-2 decision, with board member Steven Still abstaining without explanation and Board President Brian Rodely, Vice President Trent Waller and Secretary Amy Rose all voting "no."

Waller then made a motion to choose Durham, with Rodely seconding. This time, the vote deadlocked at 3-3 with Still, West and Harsy all voting "no."

Still then motioned to go back into executive session, which the board agreed with. About an hour and a half later, the board returned to open session and voted 4-2 (with Still voting with the board's leadership) in favor of Durham before returning to executive session for the third time.

The school board has acknowledged it did not publicly state the exception for going into closed session for the second time after Still's motion, but argued that its discussion fell within the scope of "anticipated litigation."

In his opinion, Raoul pointed to the 2021 Illinois Appellate Court case City of Bloomington v. Raoul, in which the court found members of the Bloomington City Council had entered closed session without reasonable grounds to believe that litigation against the City of Normal concerning the cities' intergovernmental agreement was "probable" or "imminent" and was instead speculative in nature.

"Here, the (Du Quoin School) Board contended that its closed session discussion concerning the student transportation bid was permitted by Section 2(c)(ll) of OMA because litigation was anticipated," Raoul wrote in his opinion. 'The Board did not state any litigation was pending."

Raoul added that in the school board's redacted answer, the board members "noted their concerns" and board attorney (Matthew Benson), who participated in the executive session, "validated their concerns."

"This office's review of the verbatim recording of the Board's 7:24 p.m. closed session meeting revealed the Board's discussion of its concerns did not focus on probable or imminent litigation," Raoul wrote. "Similar to the city council in City of Bloomington, the Board's discussion of litigation was Speculative.

"Further, none of the materials the Board submitted to this office indicate that at the time of the April 7, 2022, special meeting, the Board had a reasonable basis to believe that litigation was more likely than not to occur."

Raoul continued by stating the board's discussion was not limited to the "strategies, posture, theories and consequences" of the litigation, but "primarily concerned what course of action to take in awarding a bid for the student transportation contract."

In its answer to the PAC, the school board also indicated its closed session exemption fell within "criminal investigations."

This section permits public bodies to hold closed meetings to discuss "informant sources, the hiring or assignment of undercover personnel or equipment, or ongoing, prior or future criminal investigations when discussed by a public body with criminal investigatory responsibilities."

Raoul's opinion placed bolded emphasis on the last 10 words in that sentence.

"The Board did not identify for this office any source of authority it has to conduct criminal investigations," Raoul wrote. "Further, there are no provisions in Article 10 of the Illinois School Code ...which describes the powers and duties of school boards of education that authorizes the Board to conduct criminal investigations."

At the conclusion of his opinion, Raoul directed the school board to "remedy this violation by disclosing to Mr. Egbert and making publicly available the verbatim recording of the 7:24 p.m. closed session that occurred during the April 7, 2022, special meeting and the corresponding portion of the April 7, 2022, closed session minutes."

"As directed by section 3.5(e) of OMA, the Board shall either take necessary action as soon as practical to comply with the directives of this opinion or shall initiate administrative action under section 7.5 of OMA," Raoul wrote.

The school board did have the option of filing a complaint for judicial review of the matter in the Circuit Court of Cook County or Sangamon County within 35 days of the date of the opinion.

As for the school board's other two closed sessions during that April 7 meeting, Raoul determined that they were properly conducted using the personnel exemption.

"The 6:02 p.m. session discussion focused on the retirement of one specific employee, and the hiring of two other specific employees," Raoul wrote. "The 8:42 p.m. closed session focused on two specific administrators' performances during the student transportation bid process.

"Because those discussions directly concerned the employment and performance of specific employees, section 2(c)(1) of OMA authorized the Board to hold the discussions in closed session."

The school board is scheduled to convene this Thursday, July 21, at 6 p.m. for its regular July meeting.

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Press Releases

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 12, 2024

Contact Information:
Jann Ingmire
(312) 520-9802
communications@isms.org
 

Lake County physician sworn in as president of Illinois State Medical Society
 

CHICAGO – Piyush I. Vyas, M.D., was sworn in as president of the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) during its recent annual meeting. He was previously elected president-elect in 2023.

Dr. Vyas received his medical degree from MS University of Baroda in Baroda, India, and completed his radiology residency at Cook County Hospital. 

Dr. Vyas is board-certified in diagnostic radiology. Since 2004, he has been an attending physician at Lovell Federal Health Care Center, where he served as chief of radiology and nuclear medicine until 2018. Since 2018, he has been the associate director, Clinical Support Services. He was also assistant professor of radiology with Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science from 2005 to 2016 and served as vice chairman of radiology from 2012 to 2016. Currently he is an associate professor of radiology at Rosalind Franklin and actively involved in teaching medical students. He is also a valued member of the admissions committee at the university. 

He has been an ISMS member for 40 years and has served for many years as an ISMS alternate delegate and delegate to the AMA, as well as a past trustee and chair of the ISMS Governmental Affairs Council. Dr. Vyas served as president of the Lake County Medical Society for two separate terms and served on multiple committees, at the county and state level. He is also a past president of the Indian American Medical Association.

Dr. Vyas’ term as ISMS president will run through April 2025. 
 

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Founded in 1840, ISMS is a professional membership association representing Illinois physicians in all medical specialties, and their patients, statewide.  



 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2024

Contact Information:
K. Eric Larson
(847) 997-2109
elarson@eyso.org
 

Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestras to premiere new compositions at Terra metallicum on Saturday, April 13
 

ELGIN, Illinois. (April 11, 2024) – Wanees Zarour, a renowned performer, educator, and expert in Middle Eastern music, will join the award-winning Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestras (EYSO) as guest artist for a genre-bending evening of musical collaboration and performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13, in the Auditorium at South Elgin High School at 760 E Main St, South Elgin.

EYSO’s flagship Youth Symphony and its Brass Choir will perform with Zarour, who has been working with EYSO student musicians in rehearsals this past month, and through a masterclass at the high school earlier in the day. They will premiere two new compositions at this concert.

Zarour is an award winning Palestinian-American composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist steeped in maqam and jazz music. His compositional and arranging styles transcend borders and draw from traditions spanning the entire globe. 

For millennia, the complex and rich relationships between the natural world and humankind have captivated scholars, scientists, philosophers, and artists. Fruitful and fraught, timeless, and fragile, these relationships inspire a tremendous spectrum of artistic expressions that imitate, investigate, and emulate the interconnected worlds of nature and humanity. In EYSO's 48th season, explore how sound reflects the natural and built worlds around us — and how the two are united through music.

To see a more complete list of performances or for tickets, go to www.eyso.org/concert. In addition to traditional in-person seating, tickets are available to experience the concerts via live streaming.

About EYSO
The mission of EYSO is to create a community of young musicians, enriching their lives and the lives of their families, schools, communities and beyond, through the study and performance of excellent music.

EYSO serves students from 70 Chicagoland communities and has a national reputation for providing students with an engaging musical experience and a comprehensive learning environment of curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and collaboration. Students explore a thematic curriculum each season — one that helps students develop artistically and technically, and prepares them for a future of complex ideas, creative risk-taking, and leadership as global citizens. This approach has led hundreds of alumni to successful careers as professional musicians, educators, and strong leaders in every field. The theme of EYSO’s 48th season is GAIA through which students explore how sound reflects the natural and built worlds around us—and how the two are united through music. 

EYSO is accepting applications to audition for the 2024-25 season at www.eyso.org

To learn more about EYSO, visit www.eyso.org or call (847) 841-7700.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 5, 2024

Contact Information:
Monique Whitney
(505) 480-4150
email: monique@truthrx.org greynolds@ipha.org
 

Illinois pharmacists rally at State Capitol to end prescription drug middlemen patient steering, support increased state oversight

Community pharmacists call attention to increasing prescription drug costs, decreased access to care and emerging pharmacy deserts correlated to pharmacy benefit manager practices.

 

SPRINGFIELD, IL (March 5, 2024) – Illinois pharmacists will gather at the State Capitol today to rally in support of HB 4548 and SB 2790, proposed legislation which would eliminate controversial practices by prescription drug middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. The rally is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. and will be held near the Lincoln statue, located at the east end of the State Capitol and will include brief remarks by bill sponsors and constituents negatively impacted by PBM prescription drug pricing practices.

If enacted, HB 4548, sponsored by Rep. Jones, would protect patients’ right to receive prescription medication from the pharmacy of their choice, banning the lucrative PBM practice of “steering” patients to PBM-owned or affiliated pharmacies or mandatory mail order. Sen. Koehler’s SB 2790 would empower the state’s Department of Healthcare and Family Services with greater oversight of PBM contracts; monitoring of payments made to PBMs and pharmacies; and ensuring PBM rebates negotiated on behalf of HFS are fully paid to HFS.

“We applaud Representative Jones, Senator Koehler and the many members of our state legislature who are championing these critical measures that would protect the state’s patients and pharmacy providers,” said Illinois Pharmacists Association President Rupesh Manek, RPh, pharmacist and Rochelle-based pharmacy owner. “The proposed legislation is evidence of a responsible governing body aware of the pitfalls that come with overpaying pharmacy benefit managers for services that should be provided in the interest of fiscal responsibility, not overcompensating shareholders.”

Last May, Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino released the results of a Performance Audit of Pharmacy Benefit Managers, finding the state’s Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) department did not have complete copies of the contracts between managed care organizations and PBMs necessary to conduct monitoring of contract provisions, or between PBMs and pharmacies to be able verify accuracy or rate of reimbursement to pharmacies. The result of passage of SR 792 in 2022, the Performance Audit of the Medicaid Managed Care (MMC) PBMs identified over $200 million over 2 years in spread pricing overbilling to the MMC prescription program.

Anne Cassity, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) said “NCPA commends the Office of the Auditor General for its diligence in revealing gross overpayment to PBMs in Illinois’ Managed Medicaid program. Sadly, Illinois is joining numerous other states in recognizing how PBMs harm both the patients and payers – both public and commercial – they purport to serve. We urge Illinois to join the ranks of states who have established comprehensive PBM regulation with strong enforcement provisions to ensure patient access to pharmacy services at their neighborhood community pharmacy.”

PBMs manage patients’ prescription drug benefit, acting as the liaison between the patient, the pharmacy, and the patient’s employer or health plan sponsor. Since 2019, numerous studies have uncovered evidence of PBMs practices that result in endpayers paying significantly more for patients’ prescription medication than the patient’s pharmacy was reimbursed (a practice called “spread pricing”); and patients “steered” away from their pharmacy of choice to PBM-owned/affiliated pharmacies. Additional studies have shown the drug manufacturer rebates PBMs negotiate increase a drug’s list price year over year, causing patients to pay more out of pocket because of rebate-inflated costs. For more information on the rally or how PBM practices are affecting Illinois patients and taxpayers, contact Illinois Pharmacists Association at IPhA.org. Learn more about NCPA, the country’s largest organization of independent pharmacy owners, at NCPA.org. To understand how PBM practices affect patient care and affordability of medication for consumers and end payers, visit PUTT’s website at TruthRx.org.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 4, 2024

Contact Information:
William Nissen, publisher of the elderparole.org website
(312) 882-6338
email: wmjnissen@gmail.com
website: https://www.elderparole.org/
 

Advocates to deliver letters of support for elder parole bill, HB 2045, to governor, lieutenant governor, and legislative leaders in Springfield on March 6, 2024
 

CHICAGO (March 4, 2024) - Advocates for the passage of HB 2045, which would establish an elder parole process in Illinois, plan to hand deliver more than 900 signed letters of support for the bill to the Springfield offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and legislative leaders on March 6, 2024.

The elder parole bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-27th), would provide a parole process for approximately 1,000 people in Illinois prisons who are aged 55 years or older and have served at least 25 years.

The letters come from people across the State of Illinois and beyond, including people incarcerated in Illinois prisons. Most of the letters make the following points in support of enactment of the bill:

• The Illinois prison population has been steadily aging.

• Older inmates are often sick and infirm.

• Illinois is not providing the medical care that is needed by these aging inmates.

• A court-appointed monitor has identified elder abuse in Illinois prisons where preventable deaths have occurred due to the state’s failure to provide proper medical care.

• The medical care that is being provided is very costly to the state and the cost will only worsen as more inmates age.

• The Joe Coleman Medical Release Act is not solving the problem because too few people are sick enough to qualify and many of those who qualify are being denied release.

• Many older inmates have maintained close ties to their friends and families, who will support them in transitioning to life outside prison.

Under the bill, no one would be entitled to release, but rather eligible people would be given the opportunity to present their individual circumstances to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board and request release.

The bill requires the board to decide whether to grant parole based on several considerations, including rehabilitation, character references, participation in educational and work programs, and criminal and disciplinary history. The bill also provides that victims’ families would be notified and given the opportunity to participate in the parole hearing.

In 1978, Illinois abolished discretionary parole for those sentenced on or after Feb. 1, 1978. Since then, the growth in the prison population has far outpaced the increase in the state’s general population, and the percentage of the prison population 55 years or older has also increased significantly.

Dr. John Raba, the former medical director of Cermak Health Services, which provides health care at the Cook County Jail, is the court-appointed monitor in a class action where state officials have entered into a consent decree requiring that adequate medical care be provided in Illinois prisons. Dr. Raba has reported that the state is not meeting the needs of older prisoners and does not have the resources to provide such care.

According to Dr. Raba’s reports, the inadequate health care is resulting in elder abuse and avoidable deaths. Dr. Raba has recommended that a pathway to early release of prisoners be established. This bill would establish a reasonable pathway.

Rep. Slaughter has explained the need for this bill as follows: “This bill would establish a much needed mechanism for considering on an individual basis whether there is no longer any public interest to be served by continuing to imprison an individual who has aged and served significant time, because the individual has become rehabilitated, is not a threat to public safety, and neither the public nor the individual would benefit from that individual’s continued imprisonment. The
people covered by the bill are the least likely to re-offend and the most expensive to care for, given medical expenses and end-of-life care.”

Here are links to the text of most of the letters to be delivered and to a fact sheet for the bill:

Text of letter supporting enactment of HB 2045: https://bit.ly/3sd6aE9

Fact sheet for HB 2045: https://bit.ly/3P5jvph

 
 
 
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