Hearing set for SA lawsuit

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — A pretrial hearing for a pending lawsuit against the Student Association Senate is set to be held Feb. 2.

Leon Kincaid, former SA senator, filed a complaint April 29 against the SA for allegedly violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act when he was not a senator.

State statutes for the act, which was passed in 2005, require “actions of public bodies be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.” State universities fall under the definition of “public body.”

On Nov. 22, 2015, the SA held a nine-hour closed meeting to vote on eight charges against Reggie Bates, former SA vice president. Kincaid, who was not a senator at that time, said he was instructed to sit outside the meeting until he was invited in to give testimony during the impeachment trial.

Dillon Domke, former SA Senate speaker, said the SA Senate is not a public body, according to a Nov. 23, 2015 Northern Star article. However, the complaint filed by Kincaid alleges the meeting violated the Open Meetings Act because the SA Senate is not a private organization.

“It’s pretty clear to me that the Open Meetings Act does apply to student governments,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid’s attorney received an email Oct. 7 from defense attorney Joseph Lovelace which declared the SA Senate’s refusal to settle the case. The settlement proposed stipulated the SA Senate as a public body that is subject to all provisions of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. The SA would also pay lawyer fees and a $5,500 penalty for violating both acts, Kincaid said.

The SA Senate moved to dismiss the case Nov. 10 on the grounds that Kincaid filed the complaint 159 days after the alleged incident, which is outside of the 60-day required time frame provided under Act 5 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, according to court documents.

On Dec. 30, Kincaid’s attorney issued a response claiming Kincaid’s complaint is valid due to a second provision which permits a filing “prior to a future meeting in which there is probable cause to believe that a violation will occur.”

Kincaid was escorted out of a May 1 SA Senate meeting after announcing his lawsuit to senators during public comment. Timothy Brandner, former SA Senate sergeant-at-arms, said Kincaid was removed from the meeting because the SA Senate is not comfortable with individuals who threaten, make allegations against or are inthe process of suing the SA without the SA’s legal counsel being present, according to a May 2 Northern Star article.

“It’s possible that [the SA Senate] felt that voting publicly on whether to impeach [Bates] would have consequences individually from the executive officers,” Kincaid said.

The SA Senate denies it failed to follow the Open Meetings Act but passed a bill Oct. 23 requiring all Senators to complete the necessary training of the Open Meetings Act through the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, according to court documents. SA Senate Speaker Christine Wang said in the affidavit she would require all senators to complete this training by Nov. 30.

Wang declined comment.

Lindsey Salvatelli is a staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected].