SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) -
The Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor's office is supposed to be issuing opinions and assisting in the interpretation of the Illinois Freedom Of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. While they do assist a good number of citizens every year, there are plenty that fall through the holes.
When it takes two years or more to receive an opinion on alleged violations of the Freedom Of Information Act, that, in my opinion, is a complete failure.
Emails and phone calls for updates go nowhere, while requests for review filed long after, are rendered opinions long before previous ones.
Let's take the request for review on the Clark-Edgar Rural Water District's illegal imposition of a fee not consistent with the Freedom Of Information Act. When the public records were requested, the requester was notified that the usual computer operator was out of the office for a month and that they had to give him paper copies. They then proceeded to charge him $253.30 for those copies when the fault was their own.
The CERWD reason was that they "were not familiar with the software", effectively admitting the records were in electronic format, and that it the fault of no one but themselves. There is no reason they should charge others for their own shortcomings.
He filed a complaint with the Public Access Counselor and has waited almost 2 years for an answer - and is still waiting.
Additionally, I requested comment from the AG's office on why this is taking so long for an opinion.
In June of 2012 a request for review was filed with the Public Access Counselor's offfice
August 30, 2012 was the last information request from the AG's office about this review
October 26, 2013 was an email requesting the PAC finish their review
April 18, 2014, I requested comment from the PAC on why it was taking so long for an opinion.
April 21, 2014, Mr. Allen was contacted by the PAC and told they were working on resolving it.
April 23, 2014, I received an email from the AG's office stating:
John, we have been working to informally mediate the complaint, but at this stage given those discussions, we are also drafting a determination letter. I think it’s important to stress, however, that our office does not have the authority under the transparency laws to require the public body to issue a refund, so our work is focused on educating the public body through the informal mediation process and ultimately a determination letter.
That was over 6 weeks ago. It is now June 3, 2014 and still no determination letter and no "informal resolution". It took the legislature less than a week to write and pass an entire FOIA bill to stick it to the taxpayers, but the AG's office can't write a determination letter in less than 2 years?