RANTOUL  — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has cited the Rantoul City Schools board for violating the Open Meetings Act in the public forum portion of the Oct. 17 meeting.

The action came after resident Wendell Golston sent a request to review a possible violation to the attorney general Oct. 31.

The violation came when Golston was speaking to the board and mentioned a shooting that had taken place that day. Board President Bill Sweat cut in and said, “I hate to have to interrupt you, but that gunplay didn’t happen anywhere near the school. I’m just letting you know that this is for school business, so if you would like to bring something up that happened on the property. ...”

Sweat said according to the Open Meetings Act, he was legally able to interrupt Golston.

After Golston filed the review, Raoul asked Sweat to provide a written response to the allegations.

In the written response, Sweat asserted he has the authority to rule inappropriate comments to be out of order based on School Board Policy 2:230 with an emphasis on subsection 4 of 2:230.

According to a letter that was sent to Sweat and Golston, it was deemed Sweat was not allowed to interrupt Golston.

No authorization

The letter stated: “Subsection 4 does not authorize the President’s interruption because the interruption addressed the content of Mr. Golston’s comments rather than any procedural matter.”

At the board meeting on Thursday night the matter was brought to the rest of the board members.

Sweat addressed Golston before the public forum portion of the meeting.

“My actions on Oct. 17th when I interrupted you during the public forum when you were addressing the board concerning a shooting that occurred in town was incorrect. I should not have interrupted you and redirected your  conversation, and I should have let you go on and continue. Therefore I give you my apology,” Sweat said.

Golston then requested an apology from the entire board as well because the violation was filed under the Rantoul City Schools Board and not just Sweat. The apology was received.

Golston said he accepted the apology and said he hoped “we can move forward.”

Resident Jack Anderson then spoke at the public forum and asked Sweat to resign.

“I call for you to step down as board president and resign your position on the school board,” Anderson said.

Anderson said Sweat did not let the board know about the investigation.

Sweat responded: “The board did not make this mistake. Bill Sweat made this mistake. So the board is not being held responsible for it. That is why I offered the apology.”

Sweat also said he would not resign.

Claims no disgrace

“My actions have not disgraced the board, has not disgraced this community and has not disgraced anybody. Therefore I am not stepping down,”Sweat said

Board member Andy Graham also said he was frustrated with Sweat. Graham asked all the board members if they were aware of the attorney general contacting Sweat, and all said they were not aware.

“You were notified Oct. 31st, and now we are hearing about Jan. 16th,” Graham said, adding later, “We should have been copied on your response.”

Sweat admitted he was in error in not copying the full board.

Graham said Sweat was “making a mockery of this board room; to find out during the public comments of board meeting two months after you did it, that is OK?”

Sweat said once the decision was rendered he did not necessarily have the complete opportunity to inform all the board members.

The board continued discussion of how they felt the matter should been handled.

The letter from the attorney general to Sweat and Golston stated, “The Public Access Counselor has determined that resolution of this matter does not require the issuance of binding opinion. This letter serves to close this file.”

rbirch@rantoulpress.com