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June 25, 2024

CERWD – Attorney Fees for Unwinnable Case

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On January 10, 2013


“Ensuring Open and Honest Government”

That is the statement on the Illinois Attorney General website – it is there for a reason. The Freedom Of Information Act and Open Meetings Act are two of the primary statutes that compel public bodies to meet in the open and respond to requests for documents. When the statutes contain language and terms like “fundamental obligation” and “primary duty”, it is clear what the Legislative intent of these two statutes are.

After receipt of a FOIA request for the attorney invoices, it is clear that the CERWD wasted public funds – your money – hiring an attorney to review FOIA requests and for defending a lawsuit in which, if they bothered to read the actual statute, was unwinnable for the district.

The action of hiring an attorney to review a FOIA request should immediatelybe an indicator that a public body is attempting to hide or conceal information from the public. If a person can read and comprehend, it is simple to determine what documents must be released and what personal information can be redacted from those documents. The purpose of the free online training and certification at the Illinois Attorney General’s website is to certify the minimum requirements of a FOIA officer – pass that and there is no need to hire an attorney. There is also free training for the general public.

Maybe if we charge them lawyer’s fees…

It is also clear, from their October meeting audio, they fought the FOIA lawsuit thinking they could “charge me the lawyer’s fees” in an attempt to “change our attitude.” The real problem is that some public officials think they can control what public documents the public are allowed to inspect. Some even go as far as keeping documents in the possession of contractors thinking they can avoid the FOIA law, which is clearly not the case.

Refering to FOIA and access to public documents as “silly”, calling it a “a waste of time“, and “a lot of nonsense” makes it even clearer what their intentions were. I do not believe the legislative intent was silly, nonsense, or a waste of time. Comments like these point to the fact that some public officials have been in office for too long and are becoming arrogant, with no sense of responsibility to the public they serve.

The bottom line is that the CERWD Trustees decided to waste your money on an attorney, instead of simply turning over documents they are obligated by law to provide. This has amounted to over $7445.67 – so far…

Click here to view the Invoices: in  new window.
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