Arcola Township FOIA Denials –June 9, 2013 • By jmkraft
ARCOLA TOWNSHIP – DOUGLAS CO. (ECWd) -
Starting on April 23, 2013, we sent a few FOIA requests to Arcola Township in Douglas County. The purpose of those requests were to gather information on some questionable financial expenditures. Did we receive timely and appropriate responses to the FOIA requests? NO! – which leads us to wonder why this public body has such a problem providing public documents.
Why is it that people try to keep documents secret and expect citizens to just roll over and put up with it. They stay in office so long, they forget the documents belong to the public, not to them. Then they hire an attorney in an attempt at intimidating us common folk – LOL.
The FOIA Requests
I sent two requests on April 23 requesting information on pay packages, FOIA and OMA Certificates, copy of bank statements since Nov 2012, and a coipy of credit card statements since Jan 2012 on the first FOIA. The second FOIA requested phone bills, cell phone bills, and location of the wireless access point.
First Incomplete Redacted Response
On April 30, Arcola Township Clerk, Bill Coombe, responded with a large stack of documents with improper redactions, only the first pages of the cell phone and credit card statements, and missing documents for the other items requested.
He also bundled the two requests together in an attempt at increasing the copying fee he could charge.
My Letter to Arcola Township Clerk
I responded to the Township demanding complete compliance with the FOIA requests, corrected his math problems, and declined to pay any charges until compliance was had and a new invoice sent.
Arcola Township Responds With Letter From An Attorney, Mark T. Petty
Their response came from Petty Law Office, their attorney, in which he attempted to justify the fee saying even though it was two requests, he counted it as one. Like I’m supposed to believe the law allows him to do that.
He also stated that I received what the township had.
My Long Response to their Attorney, Mark T. Petty
I responded to their attorney explaining what I requested and what I did not receive. I explained FOIA and how redactions could be made, I also explained the part about “records in the custody of a contractor shall be considered as records of the public body” – meaning that they should ask the cell phone and credit card companies to send new statements, although in the modern world all they have to do is log on to their account and email their own statements to themselves.
Attorney Response To Me
His letter basically stated nothing I said meant anything and the case was closed – I lost because I can’t read the FOIA statute. Not in those words, but that is what he meant. He went so far as playing the word game between “document” and “record” when those terms are interchangable. Further stating the township is not obligated to give me any information and the redacted portions of the credit card and the phone bills were because the account numbers shouldn’t be in the public sphere.
The prove they were already in the public sphere, I included some of the account numbers in my response to his first letter, but I guess they are still secret numbers.
Most importantly though, was his continued assertion that 2 seperate FOIA request somehow magically became a single request. Funny how he wanted me to follow the “two way street” but did not apply that to the township – effectively making it a one way street, with me being the lone traveler.
I will say that I did inform them that I would take action to obtain said documents, and even referenced the paragraph that allows a civil suit, which will be filed this coming week. I will post a followup article after the suit is filed.