Shelbyville Co. (ECWd) –
At its township meeting on May 1, 2017, the Shelbyville Township attorney resigned from her appointed position as township FOIA Officer and also informed the board she would not seek to continue being the township attorney (effectively resigning from that position as well). Shelbyville Township appointed her to be the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer a few months ago.
The law is clear on who the FOIA officer is to be.
(5 ILCS 140/3.5)
Sec. 3.5. Freedom of Information officers.
(a) Each public body shall designate one or more officials or employees to act as its Freedom of Information officer or officers.
I confronted the Attorney on this very issue and was informed by her that she is, in fact, a W2 employee of the Township. as it was clear she knew she was not an “official” of the Township so the only other option to justify being the FOIA officer was to claim she was an employee.
We first covered this in this article. Turns out she was not a W2 employee as she had claimed. Did I mention she made that claim in front of the local newspaper reporter who has yet to write about that lie? Not only was she not a W2 employee, the law forbids the township attorney from being an employee, which we also covered.
The law is also clear regarding limitations to the access and rights to disseminate public records.
“…a public body may not grant to any person or entity, whether by contract, license, or otherwise, the exclusive right to access and disseminate any public record as defined in this Act.”
Fast forward to an Attorney General Public Access FOIA request for review we filed, which dealt with a different attorney. Turns out the Shelbyville Electoral Board court appointed attorney passed off my FOIA to the Shelbyville Township Attorney to handle, the same one that was not honest about being a W2 employee. Never mind she was never appointed to be the Electoral Board’s FOIA officer. Part of my complaint was that an attorney can not be the FOIA officer.
Although we have never seen a written response from the Shelbyville attorney to my PAC complaint, the PAC closed out the case with this statement, as it relates to the Attorney being the FOIA officer.
“A public body does not grant an attorney the exclusive to right disseminate public records — much less access and disseminate public records — merely by engaging an attorney to help administer its duties under FOIA. Therefore, we conclude that your allegations concerning the Board’ s FOIA officer are without merit.”
Although the PAC has refused to respond to my follow-up communications, it’s clear after last nights Shelbyville Township meeting, they got it wrong by accepting the position that this attorney is simply an engaged attorney to “help” the township with their FOIA duties.
The Township Appointed this attorney as the sole FOIA officer during the February meeting (See agenda). She was not an employee of the Township, is forbidden by law to be an employee of the Township as the attorney, and now we have her own words to prove she was, in fact, a contracted attorney for the township, which is a direct indictment of her honesty, or lack of, in her claim of W2 employment as a justification for being the FOIA officer in violation of what the FOI Act outlines.
The fact of the matter is, the Township appointed their attorney to be the only FOIA officer. That action gave this private attorney the exclusive right to access and disseminate public records and to top it off, not only is that a violation of the FOI Act in our opinion, the Taxpayers got billed for those services that should have been handled by the official or employee of the public body.
We have one question for the attorney:
Why did you claim you were a W2 employee of the Township when you clearly knew that was not true?
She clearly knew based on;
- This document, where she was “retained” for her legal services, which is not employment.
- This response document, which confirms she was a contractor getting a 1099 and not an employee
- Her resignation statement last night where she acknowledged she was, in fact, contracted with the public body.
It is clear, she knew her claim of being a W2 employee was not true. Her resignation as FOIA officer and legal representative may be the first step towards fixing many of the issues in Shelbyville Township. If you can’t trust your attorney to be honest with the media it is time to get a new attorney.