Cook County

Village of Wheeling makes up own definition of “public records”

WHEELING, IL. (ECWd) –

The Village of Wheeling, Illinois received my request for public records, which included a request for surveillance video over a 3-day time-frame:

“I request video surveillance from the first floor lobby of Village Hall or from any other first floor surveillance camera, regardless of whether it is mounted inside or outside of Village Hall that will show the arrival and departure of every elected official of Wheeling; of any Village attorney; and of village manager, Jon Sfondilis beginning at 7am on Monday, June 19 through 7pm on Wednesday, June 21. Please provide a 60 second margin before and after the entry and exit of each.”

Wheeling responded with a request to narrow the scope of the request, which I did, but they also made up a new definition of “public record” to suit their own needs of keeping things from the public.

The Village’s decision to use and its placement of security cameras is a function of a property owner, not a government

I will have to say, Wheeling gets an “A” for creativity at the same time it gets an “F” for failing to comply with FOIA. They must think that the Village owning the property doesn’t make it a function of government? I am supposed to ignore the part about “The Village’s decision…”

They should patent that phrase and all it encompasses, maybe even expand on the idea. Think of how easy FOIA would become for every governmental body in the state.

Here are some fun ways they could expand on their idea:

  • the Village’s decision to allow its former Mayor Argiris to use the village’s credit card for personal and private business purposes was a function of a credit card holder, not a government
  • the Village’s decision to allow its former Mayor Argiris to use the village’s vehicle for personal use and private business use was a function of a vehicle owner, not a government…
  • the Village’s decision to [insert problem here] was a function of [insert excuse here], not a government…

Maybe they could carry it one step further, and use it during open meetings:

  • the Village’s decision to not allow public comment at the meeting was a function of the microphone owner, not as a function of government

Do you see how absolutely insane their excuse is for not provide camera footage for the time-frame asked?

A similar excuse was provided for electronic swipe card information:

“[Swipe Cards] are not public records as they do not relate to the transaction of Village business. When an employee enters a single entry point of a building does not relate to the transaction of the Village’s business as it provides no actual information or data about work performed by an employee.”

Wow. They could use the same excuse for I-pass toll card information, or timecard information, or computer log information, etc…

The bottom line here, is that electronic card swipe information and camera footage are public records and they do have to provide the requested records. Apparently it will take a Judge to force them to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

(c) “Public records” means all records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary materials pertaining to the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body.

I don’t see their definition of a public record within the definition provided by the legislature and signed into law. The above paragraph partially explains “pertaining to the transaction of public business” as (1) having been prepared by or for, or, (2) having been or being used by, or, (3) received by, or, (4) in the possession of, or, (5) under the control of. . . any public body.

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Categories: Cook County, feature, Wheeling

7 replies »

  1. Mr. Kraft, I really appreciate the way you expounded on how Wheeling’s argument could be applied to other scenarios. Not only was this entertaining, but it served to clear up the fog that a lot of these municipal law firms emit in their efforts to confuse citizens who want nothing more than to have a better understanding of how their government works, and if necessary, to hold them accountable for what they are doing with the authority granted to them by voters. This post was tremendously helpful to the average joe citizen who attempts to utilize their rights under FOIA, only to get an answer from a “member of the bar” aka “an officer of the court” and they get intimidated by the big words and the title and suddenly they begin to doubt themselves. The arguments you put forth in this post helped to clear that fog and, I believe, will be very helpful to sincere citizens who wish to participate in public life but who also get shot down by the nonsense thrown at them in these foia letters. Your humor gives citizens the courage to face these sorts of challenges and puts a little wind back into the sails of some of us who begin to feel downtrodden by attorneys who take their marching orders from rogue village managers instead of from the rules that govern their profession. This was excellent, Mr. Kraft. A real boost of encouragement not to give up.

  2. Doesn’t showing up at work every day for a change to the duty of a public employee who is receiving a full-time salary ? Doesn’t the public have a right to know what time they actually stroll into the office every day -if at all ? They have something to hide if they’re not willing to show the swipe card reports. That’s the effect of equivalent of punching a time clock and we all know how many cases of fraud people or engaging and surrounding those devices so I think the swipe card aluminates a lot of potential for fraud .

  3. Maybe they don’t want to show you the swipe card records because maybe they don’t actually show up for work every day or maybe they show up for only half a day. John C. Melaniphy III has what appears to be a very busy side business so maybe he is earning a full time salary from Wheeling, but maybe he doesn’t actually put in the hours. http://www.melaniphy.com

  4. I wonder who told them they could get away doing this or did they just think it up themselves? Either way, they lose in court and get more negative publicity. Arrogance at its worst. This is another example that needs to be shown to all schoolchildren of how not to behave in government.

  5. Your first amendment rights will get suspended by the non government village board. Whenever you are in wheeling stop at super dog, the best hot dogs and the only good thing in wheeling.

  6. NB: The below text was taken from the website of the Village of Wheeling, Illinois (not a government) website. Unfortunately, the photo did not
    make it with the text. Go to the website, http://www.wheelingil.gov/189/Village-Manager of this ‘not a government’
    village and see the manager’s face. You might be smilin’ too
    if you were making $184,253 a year in a harsh economy.

    Jon Sfondilis
Village Manager
Email 
Phone: 847-499-9090
More Information

    Village Manager
Physical Address
2 Community Boulevard
Wheeling, IL 60090

    And the decision to pay Jon Sfondilis, Wheeling, Illinois
    Village Manager $184,253 in 2016 (openthebooks.com) is a function of the Village of Wheeling, Illinois Village
    Board, not a government.

  7. NB: The below text was taken from the website of the Village of Wheeling, Illinois (not a government) website. Unfortunately, the photo did not
    make it with the text. Go to the website, http://www.wheelingil.gov/189/Village-Manager of this ‘not a government’
    village and see the manager’s face. You might be smilin’ too
    if you were making $184,253 a year in a harsh economy.

    Jon Sfondilis
Village Manager
Email 
Phone: 847-499-9090
More Information

    Village Manager
Physical Address
2 Community Boulevard
Wheeling, IL 60090

    And the decision to pay Jon Sfondilis, Wheeling, Illinois
    Village Manager $184,253 in 2016 (openthebooks.com) is a function of the Village of Wheeling, Illinois Village
    Board, not a government.

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