SA lawsuit from 2016 concludes

DeKALB — A lawsuit against the Student Association has concluded with a  $7,500 lawyer fees settlement.

Sid Kincaid, former student and SA senator, was awarded $7,500 in legal fees in a Feb. 22 settlement agreement, according to the settlement agreement signed by both parties. The agreement was filed and signed Friday by DeKalb County Court Judge William Brady.

The violation occurred when a Nov. 22, 2015, SA meeting agenda did not properly state what would be discussed during a closed session. A closed session is a portion of the meeting in which the public is not allowed to attend.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act was amended in 2005 and requires an agenda to be posted on any public body’s website, given they have one, 48 hours before the meeting. The organization must also post minutes from its meetings on its website within 10 days after the meeting.

Kincaid said the SA is responsible for ensuring they are following the Open Meetings Act because it is a branch of a public body.

Timothy Brandner, former SA sergeant-at-arms, said the SA was not a public body, and they were not required to follow the act, according to a May 2016 Northern Star article.

Kincaid’s complaint was filed 159 days after the violation occurred when the usual limit for a complaint is 60 days, according to the SA’s motion to dismiss. The SA also said they had passed legislation to require all members of the organization to complete Open Meetings Act training through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Kincaid filed a lawsuit April 29, 2016, in DeKalb County alleging the SA intentionally committed an Illinois Open Meetings Act violation when they held a closed session trial for Reggie Bates, former SA vice president.

Bates was being tried for neglect of duty; Kincaid said he was the unpaid employee responsible for completing the work not being done.

“He was in trouble for not updating the bylaws and having an unpaid SA member do it for him without approval,” Kincaid said. “I was that individual. I know he wasn’t doing his duty to update the bylaws because I was doing it myself.”

Kincaid said he was brought in to testify during the trial, but he was told to wait outside of the room until it was his turn to speak.

SA senate speaker Christine Wang said she did not want to comment on the closing of the case until she speaks with SA’s lawyer.

“There’s more to this than the Open Meetings Act,” Kincaid said. “I don’t think I’m going to stop being a government watchdog. Even though I’m not a reporter, it is still beneficial that someone with knowledge of the history of the organization be able to critique it.”

Correction: The Northern Star previously reported that the Illinois Open Meetings Act was passed in 2005, and the lawsuit against the Student Association concluded with a settlement leading to the SA admitting it violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The Illinois Open Meetings act was amended in 2005, and the lawsuit concluded with the SA agreeing to pay Kincaid’s legal fees. The story has been changed to reflect the accurate information.