Paris, IL. (ECWd) -
After our presentation at Restore Illinois '13 (AFP #RestoreIL13), we realized there was not enough time to get our message and methods out to those that were interested.
We are therefore announcing that training development is underway, and we hope to have something put together in the coming weeks. It is an exciting time for us to be able to assist others in holding their local governments accountable. After all, it all starts at the local level.
We are kind of a unique organization, in that although our name says "watchdogs", our mission is to ensure "accountabily, truth, and transparency". We not only dig in and find what the problems are, we dig in and try to get those problems fixed - by whatever means we have at our disposal.
If you have followed us for any length of time, once we identify a problem, we do not go away until it is fixed. Period. Otherwise we become the attacker of the next person that tries to obtain public records.
This training will consist of what has worked for us, while realizing that every place and situation is unique. We do not profess to know everything, we are not attorneys, but we are willing to tell you what we do know.
There are a few steps that must be accomplished in order to get started on your research:
- Identify a problem area, or an area that concerns you
- Submit freedom of information act requests for paperwork that you believe will shed light on the area
- Document everything and bring it with you - this process takes a few weeks
Here is what we envision our training sessions will cover:
- General overview of our history, methods, and successes.
- Some of the first steps you must take.
- Information: those with the knowledge have the power: What types of records to ask for, their common uses, how to ask for what you really want, what to do with the records once you get them.
- An indepth look at the laws, statutes, and the Illinois Constitution and how they affect transparency and truth. How each of those work with the other.
- In depth practical application of statutes and other the tools available. How to use the FOIA and OMA statutes.
- How to ask the Attorney General for assistance with public records and public meetings.
- When you get tired of the run-a-round, what you might expect when filing civil suits to gain access to public records, and how we went about filing pro se (without an attorney) civil suits in circuit court - and winning them (either by settlement or court order).
- Strategic research; beyond the public records.
- Risks that you take when deciding to become involved.
- Actions by public officials; both with assisting in solving identified problems; and those that choose lies, intimidation, alienation, and threats.
- Methods to get your message out and to get others involved. Websites, social media, newspapers, tiplines, email subscriptions, etc.
- Development of a network of like-minded individuals that will assist when asked. The is no reason you should have to feel like you are "on your own".
If this looks appealing to you, please keep an eye out for updates on this subject. Give us suggestions on what you would like to see.
We are hoping to complete our inaugural training session prior to the Christmas holiday season.
This radio spot played on Danville and Champaign area radio stations this weekend. (Here)