Effingham County

Effingham County violates FOIA – State’s Attorney now involved

Effingham Co. (ECWd) –

In light of the ambulance contract the county recently entered into, and the public outcry over concerns on how that process was handled, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

My request was sent March 30th, 2017, and we have had zero response from the county until today and only because we got the State’s Attorney involved.  The following is what was requested.

  • A copy of written request addressed to the clerk of the board for a special meeting of the county board that reflects one-third of the members of the board making said request for a special meeting as required by law for the last three special meetings held by the County Board.  
  • A copy of written notice to each member of the board informing them a special meeting has been called by one-third of the members of the board for the last three special meetings held by the County Board.
  • A copy of the notice of such meeting published in the newspaper as required by law for the last three special meetings held by the County Board.
  • A copy of the recording (audio/video) of the last special meeting where the Ambulance Settlement agreement was acted on.
  • A copy of the settlement agreement voted on by the board.
  • A copy of the agenda for the special meeting where the Ambulance settlement agreement was acted on.
  • A copy of e-mail addresses for all County elected officials.  

Considering it appeared our request was being ignored, as it is well past due the statutory time frame, we reached out to State’s Attorney Brian Kibler.  Shortly after contacting his office we received the following notification from his office.

Kirk, I just spoke with the County Clerk, Kerry Hirtzel, and he informed me that you would be receiving an email regarding your FOIA request.  If you have any other questions, please let me know.

CORRECTION/UPDATE:  I appreciate the response, however, we believe it is fair to ask, is the State’s Attorney going to exercise his power to hold them accountable and prosecute the FOIA violation as Official Misconduct or will he ultimately end up defending them in what is a clear violation of our law pertaining to access of public records?

We have reason to believe the response is going to expose other laws being violated and we will report on that once they provide the requested information.
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Categories: Effingham County, feature

11 replies »

  1. It is not the district attorney’s job to prosecute civil violations. It is your responsibility to file suit. DA would be involved if you uncover criminal activity as a result of your FOIA request.

      • Lucas, I did not say it was his place to prosecute. I said he is involved. He is the legal counsel for those that violated the law. He will have to defend them if a suit is brought.

        • You did actually…. “is the State’s Attorney going to exercise his power to hold them accountable and prosecute the FOIA violation”

          • LOL! I see what you mean and I should have clarified better. The prosecution would not be a FOIA case but a criminal case for Intentionally or recklessly failing to perform any mandatory duty as required by law. (Official Misconduct)

            I refereanced other laws that we belive were violated and today we now have confrimation that is in fact the case.

            Clarification correction provided in teh article.

  2. The answer “you would be receiving an email regarding your FOIA request.” sounds like a put off to me. Had he said your request is being answered, then there’s no problem. Such a statement means that apparently there’s more to the story they would prefer you didn’t expose.

  3. The FOIA request is pretty straight forward. Why the reluctance to respond?

    The Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, has no other recourse but to aid the Watch Dogs in this matter.

    As I often mention, what is there to hide? You wonder if providing this information to the Watch Dogs sheds light on some mischief??

  4. yes, the state attorney should be involved, though speaking from my own experience with an OMA violation which has taken 6 months and has not been resolved — I know State Attorney office must be backlogged.

    • jannie, I think you may be referring to the Attorney General, which does take forever. It was the State’s Attorney’s office that responded in this situation.

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