Glenn Ellyn (ECWd) -
Is there any recourse for bad advice given to a public body?
In reality, it is about billable hours and ensuring they maximize those billable hours in any fashion they can get away with, regardless of the quality of the legal advice being given. Lemon laws can protect you when things are not right in a car purchase. You can cancel insurance when things are not right. However you have few options when the legal opinion is wrong........because let's face it, it is what it is, AN OPINION!
The law firm representing the College of DuPage, in just one year of what we could find in the hidden IMPREST account, received $178,652.11 for their legal services. We know their total compensation is considerably higher.
I can't wait to see what they are going to bill COD for the research they did that lead to their e-mailed opinion that Mr. Kraft is not News Media. An opinion that was the crux of their attempted intimidation with threats of police action. (Click here for the coverage of that fiasco.)
In less than 5 minutes of research, we found the Federal Government's definition of Media as used in the Federal FOIA law. So as you can see, not only does Mr. Kraft meet the definition of news media as defined by Federal law, a high dollar attorney has once again laid the foundation for more lawyer jokes as his opinion was not only expressed, but expressed without a shred of validation of the facts.
All too often this is what we see with public bodies and their attorneys. They make claims and think no one will check their accuracy. That, coupled with the cop-out we most commonly hear, "our attorney said it was legal", and you can see whey we have so many problems in this country.
In fairness, the COD attorney did provide a reference to the [Illinois] Freedom of Information Act definition, which has nothing to do with reserved seating for media in a Public meeting but let's have some fun with it anyway.
- "News media" means a newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals whether in print or electronic format
- "News media" means a news service whether in print or electronic format
- "News media" means a person or corporation engaged in making news reel or other motion picture news for public showing
No, we are not a newspaper however we are an "other periodical". We are a periodical, which is a publication issued at regular intervals of more than one day and is in fact in electronic format. We are also affiliated with a monthly printed news magazine, where we gather information, write drafts and articles, and provide them for their publication. Additionally, we are engaged in making news reels or other motion picture news for public showing (click here or here to view one).
In an attempt to ensure there is no confusion on what News Media is we took that extra step of even providing our readers with a copy of the Federal law and since the attorney wanted to use a FOIA law we too went that route while reviewing federal statutes.
SEC. 3. PROTECTION OF FEE STATUS FOR NEWS MEDIA. (Federal FOIA)
Section 552(a)(4)(A)(ii) of title 5, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘In this clause, the term ‘a representative of the news media’ means any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. In this clause, the term ‘news’ means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news-media entities are television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only if such entities qualify as dissemination of ‘news’) who make their products available for purchase by or subscription by or free distribution to the general public. These examples are not all-inclusive. Moreover, as methods of news delivery evolve (for example, the adoption of the electronic dissemination of newspapers through telecommunications services), such alternative media shall be considered to be news-media entities. A freelance journalist shall be regarded as working for a news media entity if the journalist can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that entity, whether or not the journalist is actually employed by the entity. A publication contract would present a solid basis for such an expectation; the Government may also consider the past publication record of the requester in making such a determination.’’ (Click here for the Federal law outlining the above definition of news media)
I don't think we need to break it down point by point since the common person can figure this one out. Our work has been published in national publications, newspapers, and well known news networks like Fox. We meet the criteria required to be called news media in spite of a high dollar attorney's opinion.
Let this be yet another case and point that just because an attorney says so, doesn't make it right!