Following three consecutive postponements as Palos Township government struggled to find a new meeting space large enough to handle recent overflow crowds, a new meeting date has been established: Nov. 20.
The location? The Palos Township administrative offices, 10802 S. Roberts Rd. in Palos Hills, the same place that has been unable to accommodate the large number of people who have attempted to attend meetings since July.
“We’re moving ahead and getting back to the township (headquarters),” said Collen Schumann, the township supervisor.
“All other (potential) meeting places are exhausted,” she said. “There is no place that is able to let us have a meeting. I got a little hopeful with the Hickory Hills Country Club. They said we were good to go, gave us a price and everything, but within 24 hours they were cancelling.”
The country club was the latest foiled effort by Palos Township to secure a spot able to accommodate at least 100 people. By law, the meeting must be held within the township borders. The home office has public seating for 42 people.
Palos Township covers all or parts of Bridgeview, Hickory Hills, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Palos Hills, Palos Park, Willow Springs and Worth.
Crowds numbering 100-plus people have been coming to township meetings since July 10 to protest Trustee Sharon Brannigan, who made now-deleted comments on social media that some find offensive to Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent.
Protestors are calling for Brannigan to resign, which she says she will not do. She issued a written apology in September, but many who oppose her have not accepted her apology.
The October meeting, scheduled for the 9th of the month was postponed until the 16th. The meeting was again postponed until the 23rd, then cancelled outright while a search for a new venue was underway until Supervisor Schumann announced the Nov. 20 date. As of The Regional’s deadline yesterday, the township website has not yet been updated with the new information.
The Illinois Open Meetings Act provides “If the public body is aware that a controversial meeting or meeting with significant public interest is going to take place and suspects that the usual space is too small to accommodate the number of citizens who wish to attend a meeting, the public body must find an alternative location. If an alternative, larger venue is available and the public body refuses to change location, a violation of the Act has occurred based on the public’s inability to attend the meeting.”
Schumann says that’s the problem: she’s found no alternative location within township borders able, and willing, to take on the meeting. She suspects that it’s because potential venues are already aware, or learn about, the protest factor that has been part of recent meetings.
Last month Schumann told The Regional News she was “trying my darndest” to secure a meeting place and had even been turned down by Moraine Valley Community College. Green Hills Library in Palos Hills was a possibility, she said this week, but the only available dates were the day before Thanksgiving and the day after, two dates that might be considered unworkable by township trustees and members of the public.
Schumann says that like the September meeting on the 11th of that month, the Nov. 20 meeting will employ a loudspeaker outside the meeting room and a wireless microphone that will make it easier for people in attendance to make comments.
However, unlike the Sept. 11 meeting, the microphone will not be passed around the room.
“Anybody who wants to speak will be given that opportunity, but they will need to sign in in order to speak,” she said.” This is to make sure no one is missed. The clerk will call off from the list to the people who signed up. Each speaker will get three minutes.”
As for the 42-person seating capacity, which left most of the people in the 100-plus crowds either outside the meeting room or outside the building entirely, Schumann says she’s hoping “People would give up their seat and let someone else take that seat.
“Knowing that’s how we’re going to have to operate going forward, I would hope it would be something out of common courtesy that they will do,” she said.
The Nov. 20 meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Township administration can be reached via www.palostownship.org.