FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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May 14, 2015 2:12 PM

Everyone in Springfield seems to know how to spell “transparency,” but hardly anyone seems to know what the word means.

That sad fact recently reared its head when officials in Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration said they wouldn't reveal who is involved in a series of high-level talks about some of the governor's most prized pet issues, ranging from his controversial plan to allow local right-to-work zones to an overhaul of state spending.

"They are private meetings," Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly told Kurt Erickson of the Lee Enterprises' Springfield Bureau. "They are private discussions that we're keeping confidential to protect the process." Continue>>>
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May 4, 2015 11:47 AM

Early in April we received word that the Sheriff had conducted interviews for the open secretarial position due to the retirement of the previous secretary.

In the interview process, the Sheriff invited Nanette Crippes, Edgar County Emergency Telephone System Director, “ETSB”, and Nancy Zeman, part-owner of the Prairie Press weekly paper, to assist in interviewing the candidates.

Nanette Crippes and the ETSB have no connection with, and is not employed with, the Edgar County Sheriff’s Department – which makes me wonder why she was part of the interview process. Continue>>>
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April 30, 2015 11:17 AM

There are several instances where the inaction of the Attorney General’s office leads to the public being improperly denied public records. This is simply another case we decided to highlight today – more are coming:

Last summer Cook County decided it could violate the law and deny access to public records. I filed a request for review with the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor, and it was assigned file number 2014 PAC 30503.

This deals with Statements of Economic Interest, their online access, and their access thru FOIA. Continue>>>
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April 27, 2015 12:26 AM

In another sign of the increased attention being paid to the Rialto Square Theatre, the organization’s Freedom of Information Act officer has resigned because she does not have time to keep up with the demand for documents.

We are getting hit with FOIAs almost every day,” Rialto board member Vicki Murphy said at a meeting Wednesday. “It’s to the point where it’s overwhelming for the entire staff.”

Murphy, who also served as the FOIA officer until Wednesday, said two Rialto staff members are working as many as 35 hours a week dealing with public requests for information. Continue>>>
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April 22, 2015 12:54 PM

State Sen. Dan Duffy is fighting to move forward a bill to reform the Illinois Open Meetings Act in the wake of a closed-session debacle over a now-scuttled proposal for a power plant in Oakwood Hills.

House Bill 175 seeks to create a two-year statute of limitations on the ability by the public to report potential violations of the act within 60 days of their discovery. The bill, filed by state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Lake Barrington, passed the House a month ago on a 110-0 vote, and has now moved to the Senate Executive Committee.

Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, said he has been pressuring senators to advance the bill for a vote before the end of session May 31. Continue>>>
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April 21, 2015 2:07 PM

At the Better Government Association, we’re also following another “season”—the annual legislative session in Springfield.

As we head into the final innings, the box score indicates the General Assembly is playing “small ball” — moving ahead on bills aimed at eliminating a few more unnecessary units of government, expanding transparency, increasing civic engagement, and improving the criminal justice system.

But they’ve also committed a few errors, including one glaring miscue that would undermine the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. Continue>>>
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April 9, 2015 5:46 PM

In the past fifteen months, the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL) has spent over $480,000.00 fighting Freedom of Information and Open Meetings laws in a failed attempt at keeping records from the public and keeping the public from speaking / attending public meetings, or in other words, to censor and silence critics...that’s right…this is the same library that received the “intellectual freedom” award winning library and was awarded the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award just last year by the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science even after failing to report, and admitting it, that child pornography was accessed in its library and for defending the “right” of others to view pornography on its computers in full view of other patrons – including children.

That’s just fine and dandy with them because it was your money they were spending, not their own personal money. The situation at the OPPL is a prime example of why public officials must be held personally responsible for their decisions – for if the threat of emptying their personal bank accounts by almost half a million dollars was there, none of this would ever have been an issue.

So as it stands, the OPPL has paid out $10,000.00 deductible on its insurance and $250,000.00 for their attorneys at KTJ. In addition, the insurance company for OPPL has paid out $230,000.00 in its failed defense of the lawsuits brought about by the actions of OPPL board members and OPPL employee Mary Weimar. Continue>>>
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March 24, 2015 9:10 AM
Five years ago, the Northwest Herald began an ongoing series called “No More Excuses” to badger and shame local governments into compliance with new and much stronger open-government laws.
 
Timed to coincide with the national observance of Sunshine Week in mid-March, the series also coincided with new laws that not only strengthened the state’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts, but also gave the Attorney General Public Access Counselor the power to enforce them upon recalcitrant local governments. The newspaper decided that the time for excuses for not being transparent in an information age was over and that Illinois governments needed to be brought, kicking and screaming if necessary, into modern times.
 
Sunshine laws do not limit what governments can release to or discuss in front of the public – they limit what the government can conceal from them. Continue>>>
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March 23, 2015 11:47 AM

After the scandal that sent former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison, lawmakers adopted a raft of reforms that included creating a referee to intervene when bureaucrats reject citizens’ requests for government records.

Five years later, the “public access counselor” in the attorney general’s office has yet to respond to more than 2,800 appeals of Freedom of Information Act requests for information that a government agency deemed secret, according to an analysis of records obtained by The Associated Press.

That’s about one in five of all FOIA appeals submitted to the office since the law took effect in 2010. Continue>>>
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March 3, 2015 1:05 PM

Some lawmakers in Springfield are again trying to make government less transparent.

State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, a Republican from Rockford, has filed House Bill 261. If passed, it will end the publication of all public notices in newspapers in favor of government websites. The legislation states that when a law, court order, or contract requires a governmental unit to provide notice by publication in a newspaper, that governmental unit may publish the notice on an official government website instead of in a newspaper.

You might recall a similar assault of transparency occurred in 2011, when a nearly identical bill was filed. It was unsuccessful. Continue>>>
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February 26, 2015 1:17 PM

Last year, country music star Garth Brooks began his latest tour at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, but after months of resistance the village has only now released certain financial details of Brooks's 11-show stand.

Though the concerts were held in September, Rosemont declined to release financial figures, even passing an ordinance to keep that information under wraps. At that time, Brooks was said to gross $12 million from selling 183,535 tickets to the shows -- both huge numbers -- but now the Chicago Tribune has reported that the village also paid Brooks $1,050,000 in the form of a "rebate". That is, the report said, Rosemont paid $100,000 for each of 10 shows, and another $50,000 for the 11th show, which did not sell out.

A spokesperson for Rosemont told the Tribune that the town made more than $2 million from the concerts, but did not provide any documentation to back up that claim. The Tribune explained that Rosemont only released the information after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a binding opinion late last month that the financial details were subject to freedom-of-information laws. It's not clear if the deal with Brooks is typical, since Rosemont has not released information about other agreements with entertainers who perform at Allstate Arena, the report added. Continue>>>
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February 24, 2015 11:32 AM

A Verified Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief naming the Clark County Park District as Defendant was filed in Clark County Circuit Court on 02/18/2015.

This stems from the February 17, 2015 meeting where the Board approved “Lease Rates” and “Amended Covenants” but kept the contents of those documents secret from the public.

A public body is required, among others, under the Open Meetings Act “to precede the votes by a public recital of the nature of the matter being considered and other information that would inform the public of the business being conducted…” Continue>>>
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