MARSHALL, IL. (ECWd) -
A City of Marshall Ward 3 Alderman, LeFever, has filed suit in Circuit Court naming the City of Marshall, Mayor Cammie Sanders, and City Clerk / FOIA Officer Nancy Smitley (in their official capacities) as defendants. 2014-CH-20
LeFever is asking the Court for Injunctive Relief and Declaratory Judgment for access to city records that he is entitled to, specifically, records of closed sessions of committee and council meetings between December 1, 2013 and August 13, 2014.
He has been denied access to those records by Mayor Sanders and Mrs. Smitley in a letter dated August 21, 2014 and quoting the opinion of the city attorney that "...no one individual City Alderman is entitled to the information. Only Council, as a whole, may review the tapes and decide if they can be made public information." This opinion is not accurate - he is entitled to them as part of his duty as an elected city official.
Case precedence used to support the right to city records by a public official is Ebert v. Thompson, 282 Ill. App. 3d 385 at 388 (1st Dist. 1996) in that a public official does not need to file FOIA requests and that they are entitled as a matter of their duty to review those records they wish to review in order to make a more informed decision when an issue comes before the council for a vote.
Let's apply a common sense scenario to this:
Party "A" has 4 members on the city council of the City-of-No-Secrets, Party "B" has only 3 members on that city council and is excluded from all committee meetings because the majority party wants to get things done in private and without any objections. Party "A" wants to rezone residential property to commercial. Party "B" is excluded and banned from all discussions and meetings related to the rezoning - but they are still expected to vote for approval based on the recommendation of Party"A". Is this how our system of government works? I don't think so...and nobody should put up with this type of behavior at any cost.
Seeking Nothing More Than Access to Records
So, Mr. LeFever has been forced to file suit to enforce his right to audit the actions of the City of Marshall and its representatives. Mayor Sanders and Mrs. Smitley should hang their heads in shame for listening to the obviously inaccurate advice of their attorney in this case. LeFever seeks nothing more than a declaration that he is entitled to the records and an injunction against the further withholding of those records from him.
We previously wrote about access to records (here) and elected officials attending closed meetings (here). As a reminder, this situation is the result of an attempt at intimidating a public official for speaking out about unauthorized pay raises (here).
The document below was obtained from the Clark County Circuit Clerk's Office:
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