ENTIRE County Board Placed Under Citizens Arrest
In a highly unusual move, the leader of a Downstate watchdog group placed an entire park district board under a citizen’s arrest for failing to allow public comment and violating a state disclosure law.
Public boards are used to facing angry crowds, but most have never dealt with what happened at one recent meeting in central Illinois.
Around 30 people showed up at a Clark County Park District Board meeting in May, hoping to speak openly about recent park-related controversies. After most sat through a 2-1/2 hour closed session, the board returned to open session only to inform the crowd that they would not be allowed to speak to board members.
That’s when John Kraft, a member of a local watchdog group, sprang into action. Rising to his feet, Kraft informed the entire board that he was placing them under citizen’s arrest for violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act, specifically the provision that insures the public can address their elected representatives at an official meeting.
Kraft said “it was the way they said ‘no'” that led him to take the unusual police action, adding that the board again refused to entertain public comments even after he explained they were in violation of the law.
Kraft is one of the co-founders of a group called Illinois Leaks, which used to be called the Edgar County Watchdogs.
He also shot video of the arrest, posted on YouTube. Kraft says he attends several board meetings a week, and usually brings a camera along.
For “eight or nine months” Kraft says he’s been holding a printout of the citizen’s arrest statute in his wallet — just in case he had to invoke it against a public board that failed to allow public comment.