Illinois Health chief requires FOIA from senator to release emails

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is forcing state lawmakers to use the public-records law to get emails regarding a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy.

Illinois Public Health Director Nirav Shah told a joint House-Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee that his agency denied Senate committee chairman Tom Cullerton’s demand for communication about the crisis under an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.

The Democratic-led committee is reviewing the Republican administration’s handling of the summer 2015 spread of Legionnaires’ disease at Quincy, which returned in 2016 and 2017. It’s contributed to the deaths of 13 residents — 12 in 2015 and one last fall — and sickened dozens more. It’s a respiratory illness caused by bacteria in water vapor that is inhaled.

Shah and Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries promised to turn over emails discussing the outbreak when Cullerton requested them at a Jan. 9 hearing. Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, said he followed up with a reminder note to Shah on Jan. 18. Shah considered the reminder a FOIA request. Read more…