Orland Park, IL. (ECWd) –
In October 2015, the Orland Park Police Department was forced to pay a $12,000 settlement to Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan for violations of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act that occurred in July and August 2014. This police department is led by Timothy J. McCarthy, who is famous for being a Secret Service Agent on duty in 1981 during the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
The OPPD was sued in chancery court by Fox & DuJan in September 2014 over public documents that the police refused to produce (including audio recordings that proved police harassment) and also a bizarre scheme where the Village of Orland Park blocked Fox & DuJan’s email addresses so that they could not FOIA specific police records – similar to former COD President Dr. Breuder’s failed attempt at the College of DuPage when they blocked emails, then claimed FOIAs were never received.
In July 2014, John Weimar, the husband of Orland Park Public Library Director Mary Weimar, attempted to use the OPPD as a weapon to scare away Fox & DuJan while they were distributing political literature around Orland Park that was critical of the Library Board and disastrous decisions that Mrs. Weimar had made as Director. This included Mary Weimar not reporting sex crimes that occurred in the Library and the accessing of child pornography that the Library admitted happened (also without police being called), as well as Weimar wasting taxpayer money on lavish meals and jewelry store purchases in violation of the Illinois Local Library Act. Fox & DuJan were alerting the community to these facts by hand delivering flyers door to door that were printed with information obtained about the Library from FOIA requests made for incident and spending reports. The Library did not want the public to see these facts.
John Weimar made a false call to 911 in July 2014, in an effort to have Fox & DuJan harassed by the police for passing out the flyers; the police responded and improperly stopped Fox & DuJan and intimidated them. The matter of this improper stop and police harassment is pending action in federal court for civil rights violations, as distributing political flyers is a constitutionally protected First Amendment Right and the OPPD had no cause to stop, detain, and harass Fox & DuJan while they were exercising their civil rights. This was all covered here: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2014/08/orland-parks-john-weimar-uses-police-as-weapon-against-citizens/ and here: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2014/07/alsip-il-village-prosecutor-issues-threats-to-9-mo-pregnant-mom/ and here: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/2014/08/alsip-il-prosecutor-caught-impersonating-officer-using-fake-badge/
During this incident, Fox & DuJan also believe Weimar impersonated a police officer by flashing a five-pointed-star badge at them while making threats against Fox and her family. The Orland Park Police Department refused to charge Weimar for his actions, which is part of a larger pattern of the OPPD continually engaging in behavior to harass Fox & DuJan while refusing to charge people affiliated with the Orland Park Public Library with making false police reports and other crimes intended to scare Fox & DuJan away as critics of the OPPL.
Immediately after this incident caused by Weimar, Fox & DuJan made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Orland Park Police Department’s FOIA compliance officer at the time, Rick Dalzell, asking for all documents, police reports, audio recordings, video, and police dash cam recordings related to Weimar making that false 911 call and the resultant stop by the police that violated Fox & DuJan’s First Amendment rights. The OPPD did not respond to the FOIA request for those documents in the time allowed by the FOIA statute, so Fox & DuJan’s attorney contacted the Village of Orland Park to inquire about the delay in document production.
It was then revealed by E. Kenneth Friker, of the law firm Klein Thorpe Jenkins (which represents the Village), that the Orland Park Police Department had intentionally blocked Fox & DuJan’s email addresses after John Weimar’s false 911 call and deliberately ignored their FOIA requests about this matter.
The OPPD appear to have not wanted to turn over the audio and dash cam recordings, which clearly showed that Weimar lied when telling police that Fox’s car was parked “up on the sidewalk” in order to get the police to respond and stop Fox & DuJan from distributing flyers as Weimar desired. In his call to 911, Weimar also clearly stated that he wanted to have Fox & DuJan ticketed for distributing political flyers in Orland Park. It is illegal for a public body to ticket anyone for distributing political flyers and Weimar lied when claiming Fox’s car was parked on the sidewalk (as video clearly showed it wasn’t).
Fox & DuJan believe the OPPD engaged in a tactic whereby blocking their email addresses was meant to stall FOIA production beyond the 30-day time period after which the OPPD destroys audio recordings of 911 calls and police dash cam footage. Since the footage being asked for embarrassed the Village, Fox & DuJan believe the OPPD engaged in a scheme to block their FOIA requests, ignore them, and run out the clock until they were able to destroy the recordings that Fox & DuJan asked for pertaining to John Weimar and his false 911 call made in July 2014.
Fox & DuJan believe that Police Chief Tim McCarthy had full knowledge of everything that was going on, as he had been personally involved in previous efforts to harass Fox & DuJan and silence them as critics of the poor management at the OPPL.
The lawsuit that Fox & DuJan filed against the Orland Park Police Department contended that the OPPD received the FOIA requests at the date and time that the Village blocked the emails from going through to Dalzell; a FOIA requester cannot be penalized if a public body takes measures to deliberately block a FOIA request from being made. The law does not allow a public body to evade FOIA production by blocking the public’s ability to submit FOIA requests. Once the OPPD’s computers received the FOIA requests and blocked them, the clock started ticking in terms of FOIA compliance. By failing to produce the recordings and documents within five business days as required under Illinois law, the OPPD and Village of Orland Park willfully and intentionally violated the law.
Ultimately, the OPPD produced what appears to be an edited dash cam video from the improper police stop initiated by John Weimar’s false police call; key portions of the video are missing audio, notably at times when the police officer is speaking with Weimar off to the side so that Fox & DuJan could not hear what they were saying and also a long period during which the officer is in the squad car allegedly speaking with Police Chief Tim McCarthy at headquarters discussing whether or not Fox & DuJan were allowed to distribute political flyers and exercise their First Amendment Right to Petition in Orland Park. The officer told Fox & DuJan that he had to verify with the Chief if the information on their flyers was correct and if they had his permission to hand the flyers out door to door. The police have no right under the United States Constitution to claim they must verify information on political flyers or decide if someone has a right to exercise their First Amendment rights. Police Chief Tim McCarthy is not allowed to decide who can and who cannot pass out political leaflets door to door.
Additionally, the lawsuit filed by Fox & DuJan against the OPPD and the Village addressed the illegal FOIA procedures listed on the Village’s website. The Illinois FOIA statute does not allow a public body to require a particular form to be downloaded and completed for FOIA production, but the OPPD had been illegally requiring FOIA requesters to complete a specific form, sign their name, and agree to a legal disclaimer before submitting a FOIA request. All of this was in violation of the law.
The disclaimer that the Orland Park Police Department required FOIA requesters to sign and agree to stated: “This request is being made in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, and the undersigned agrees to abide by the requirements of that Act.” Section 3(c ) of the FOIA statute expressly states: “A public body may not require that a request be submitted on a standard form.” The FOIA statute also does not require a requester to sign and agree to any sort of disclaimer such as the one pushed by the OPPD.
In Illinois, a person could write a FOIA request with lipstick on an old napkin and submit it to a public body and the government entity would be required by law to respond to it within five business days. Public bodies must also accept all FOIA requests submitted by email and must produce electronic copies of documents free of charge if they maintain documents electronically in their system.
The Orland Park Police Department was forced to write a check for $12,000 for violating the FOIA statute by illegally blocking Fox & DuJan from being able to submit FOIA requests, for stalling production of audio recordings and other documents from the incident involving John Weimar’s false call to police in July 2014, and the illegal requirement of a specific form and legal disclaimer when submitting FOIA requests.
Previously, in March 2015, Fox & DuJan won a $55,000 settlement from the Orland Park Public Library for its own violations of the FOIA statute and the Open Meetings Act. Similarly, that settlement also required the public body to take steps to become compliant with state law and produce documents it had been stalling and withholding.