KANKAKEE, IL.(ECWd) –
We received information that the Kankakee Valley Airport Authority (“KVAA“) had recently voted to approve a contract to roof their building(s). Information we received also pointed to one of the Commissioners having voted in favor of the contract knowing it would be awarded to the company he owns. It really doesn’t matter if he voted in favor of it or not, simply obtaining the contract points to a conflict of interest.
A request for public records, under the Freedom Of Information Act, went out to the Airport Authority after considerable discussions with airport personnel, who didn’t want to give out any contact information. I requested copies of all bids submitted, meeting minutes where the bids were opened, meeting minutes where the bid was approved, copy of the contract, and other things. On the fifth day, the KVAA attorney, Michael R. Donahue, responded that they were working on fulfilling the request, and requested an additional five days to complete it. On the tenth day, he responded that he was denying the FOIA request, stating it was “based on your failure to make and present a proper and valid request according to Illinois law.” How can he claim they are working on complying with the request, then turn around and deny it in its entirety? Did he ever “work on complying” with it – or was he lying about working on it? Just when you think you’ve heard every excuse, a guy like this makes up a new one.
This denial violated the FOI Act because it was improperly denied. According to Illinois law, a denial under FOIA [5 ILCS 140/9(a)] must notify the requestor of the reason for the denial, and must inform the requester of their right to review by the Public Access Counselor – and each notice of denial shall inform the requester of his right to judicial review under Section 11 of the Act.
Donahue failed on all accounts in his denial. First, the records were properly requested and presented to the KVAA, which means his blanket denial statement was invalid on its face, and second, he failed to comply with the denial requirements under Section 9(a) and Section 11 in the denial notification.
I submitted a second request seeking identical information, this time, Donahue responded with part of what was requested, and denied all information concerning the roofing contract.
This clearly points to attempts at hiding the roofing contract from the public. We are not finished yet and will get copies of that contract one way or another.
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