City attorney says eye-rolling not grounds for meeting ejection

Elmhurst, IL

However the city’s municipal code will define disturbance and disorderly conduct in meetings, it will not include anything about eye-rolling.

At Monday’s meeting of the city’s Finance, Council Affairs, and Administrative Services Committee, Elmhurst officials took time to clarify the intent of proposed changes to the municipal code. Though misunderstandings were widespread, officials said the proposed revision to the city’s municipal code would be aimed at preventing meeting attendees from being kicked out without good reason.

“This has really become an interesting press issue, but let me say that as I understood, the committee asked me to try to define what would be behavior that is inappropriate ... and that behavior would be defined (so) a nonverbal response would not be deemed a disturbance of the peace,” City Attorney Don Storino said Monday.

In July, the committee charged Storino with drafting a definition for a public meeting disturbance. The action came after Committee Chairman Stephen Hipskind ejected resident Darlene Heslop from a June committee meeting for rolling her eyes, pretending to yawn, and other dismissive behavior while Mayor Pete DiCianni was discussing a proposed city contract with lobbyists.

Storino said he used Illinois state statute and guidance from Robert’s Rules of Order to craft the definition he presented Monday to the committee.

“It would truly be an action taken by an individual,” Storino said, about what would be grounds for ejection from a public meeting.

Storino said he will consider revisions based on a proposed definition of disorderly conduct provided by the Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center.

The committee eventually will present its final definition to the City Council as part of its broader revisions to Chapter Two of Elmhurst’s Municipal Code. For the time being, the proposed code changes remain in committee for further discussion.

Storino’s quest for a definition for disorderly conduct in meetings became a national story after misrepresentations of the committee’s intent went viral on the Internet. The Citizen Advocacy Center reported 30 national media outlets picked up misleading stories suggesting the city of Elmhurst would outlaw eye-rolling.

“I want to make sure the public understands this was not in any way intended to expel people for eye-rolling,” Mulliner said. “It got out there and it was a snowball and comedians loved it.”

The definition
The current draft of Storino’s working ordinance outlining prohibited behavior during meetings is as follows:
“The presiding officer shall have the power to specifically prohibit any individual from engaging in the following behavior during any meeting of the council or any of its committees:
1.  Conduct in violation of any city ordinance, state or federal law, or any
rule or regulation implementing state or federal law;
2.  Interruption of speakers; name calling; boisterous remarks;
3.  Offensive use of abusive, obscene, profane, slanderous or threatening
language or gestures;
4.  Acting or behaving in such an unreasonable manner so as to alarm or
disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace; and
5.  Any other act designed to intimidate, threaten or harm persons, or
damage or destroy property.

The presiding officer has the power to require individuals who have engaged in the above-listed prohibited behavior to leave the meeting, or to order the removal of such an offender. The offender has no right to appeal from such an order of the presiding officer; however, such an order may be appealed by a member of the council, or a committee member, as applicable, present at the meeting.  Any ruling by the presiding officer may be overruled by a majority of the members present at such council or committee meeting.”