July 11, 2016 · 7 Comments
SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –
What can the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor do when a public body refuses to comply with requests for information related to a Request for Review?
According the an AG PAC attorney, nothing:
“Unfortunately, our office lacks any authority to force a public body to respond to such inquiries. Of course, requesters and/or news media are allowed to pressure such public bodies to comply with the statute.”
However, according to the Open Meetings Act, which the Attorney General is bound by, the PAC has all the authority it needs to force an uncooperative public body to become instantly cooperative.
Section 3.5(b) of the OMA: “. . . If a public body fails to furnish specified records pursuant to this Section, or if otherwise necessary, the Attorney General may issue a subpoena to any person or public body having knowledge of or records pertaining to an alleged violation of this Act. For purposes of conducting a thorough review, the Public Access Counselor has the same right to examine a verbatim recording of a meeting closed to the public or the minutes of a closed meeting as does a court in a civil action brought to enforce this Act.”
And if a public body does not comply with a subpoena? Charge them in criminal court for noncompliance with subpoena and also charge them in criminal court for the violation of Section 3.5 — which is a Class C Misdemeanor according to Section 4 of the Open Meetings Act:
Sec. 4. Any person violating any of the provisions of this Act, except subsection (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of Section 1.05, shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.
We find this excuse used by the PAC to allow a public body to simply brush off the AG and any requests for information related to a complaint filed as nothing more than the PAC deciding on its own to not enforce the Open Meetings Act. It appears to be much better for the PAC and the local public body to make sure no determinations are ever made within any reasonable timeline.
The email discussed above is in relation to the Clark County Park District and an alleged OMA violation from close to a year ago.
We still have several OMA complaints dating back almost 2 years and a FOIA complaint dating back almost 3 years.
There can be no justice in access to public records and compliance with open meetings when the office charged with investigating alleged noncompliance cannot even read and act on the authority granted it by the legislature.
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