CLARK CO., IL. (ECWd) -
A couple months ago, the District voted to make the Park District Attorney, Kate Yargas, the District FOIA Officer. The following meeting she announced her resignation from the board effective June 30, 2014. Shortly after that meeting, I sent the following letter to the board members advising them that they no longer had a FOIA officer because of how their resolution was written.
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During the July 17, 2014 board meeting, the subject came up and I stated at that meeting that it was up to them who they named as long as they paid them. After that comment of mine, a fellow meeting attendee talked to me afterwards and noted that the Freedom Of Information Act stated it had to be an employee or an official of the District. Thanks for the tip!
Anyway, Mr. Yargas fought tooth and nail to keep control of the information coming out of the district office. What he fails to realize is that compliance with the FOIA Act and providing the requested public records is mandatory - it should not matter who the FOIA officer is, the same documents should be provided. Like I said, Mr. Yargas fought tooth and nail to keep control of the FOIA process. Eventually the board voted to keep Kate Yargas as their FOIA officer.
To us, that action throws up a red flag, because it gave the impression that there is something to hide for this to become an issue - not to mention his daughter is responding to the FOIA requests.
That citizen was correct, and I sent another letter to Mr. Stepp asking him to fix this situation and explained what the problem was.
Here is what I sent this time:
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According to law, the public body must appoint an official or employee of the public body as FOIA officer. One more time: an OFFICIAL or EMPLOYEE must be appointed.
Additionally, according to law, no person, by contract or otherwise, shall have exclusive rights to access and disseminate public records. This is obviously talking about persons that are not a official or employees of the public body.
By naming Yargas as FOIA officer they are violating two separate paragraphs of the FOIA Act. She is not an official nor an employee, and they are giving her exclusive rights to access and disseminate public records. Another thing the Park Board needs to consider is that once a record is given to someone that is not an official or employee of that public body, they cannot redact or refuse to provide that record to other persons for any reason whatsoever. If they did, at least one person outside the public body would have had exclusive rights to access the information - violating the act.
There was no response to this letter either, but we will get this fixed, either though voluntary actions or through another venue.