DeKalb County meeting public comment rules to be clarified

February 15, 2019

SYCAMORE – Rules about public commenting at DeKalb County government meetings, among other things, are about to get a little clearer.

DeKalb County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski Jr. said the committee on Thursday wanted to clarify in county rules that people attending county meetings can speak about what they want to speak about, regardless if the matter they’re speaking about has been subject to a public hearing. He said board members need to keep in mind that any evidence public commenters want to present still needs to be presented at a public hearing.

“But there’s nothing to stop a person from giving their opinion about whatever they want at these actual meetings,” Pietrowski said.

The change comes after past public commenters have been told they cannot comment on anything that has already been subject to a public hearing – unless they are first addressed by a board member – during meetings, most recently and notably being related to solar energy special use permits and a wind energy ordinance.

Pietrowski said the rule change wasn’t inspired by any particular event or meeting. He said it was a rule change that committee members wanted to make after taking another look at the county’s rule as it stands and also looking at what other communities do.

“It just looked like it would be a good update to make,” Pietrowski said.

Legal briefings

Rules about County Board members obtaining legal briefings and case updates from the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office also were addressed during the Thursday meeting.

Pietrowski said the state’s attorney’s office would end up doing settlements, lawsuits or other legal issues on their own on behalf of the county board without County Board input.

“Before, that information wasn’t necessarily really available for the County Board,” Pietrowski said.

Pietrowski said he and DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato wanted to make sure board members have access to that information and are communicated with properly when it comes to those legal issues involving the county. He said the goal for having that be further outlined in county rules is to make sure that becomes part of the culture beyond their tenures.

County Board map redistricting

Pietrowski said the county will also tweak its fair map amendment, which was passed in 2014 and is based on a similar redistricting model as the one seen in Iowa. The amendment, which goes into effect in 2022, originally had the county administrator, the community development director and the director of the county’s information management office assigned to draw the maps, Pietrowski said. One thing county officials noticed was the IMO director should act more as quality control to make sure a small town like Cortland wouldn’t be split between three districts, for example.

Pietrowski said anything covered at the Thursday rules committee meeting will be brought forward to the executive committee during their March 13 meeting and will go before the County Board during their March 20 meeting. Any changes that are passed by the County Board will be effective after the meeting, he said.