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May 28, 2022

Park Attorney: Tens of Thousands spent on FOIA legal fees –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On July 22, 2015

Clark Co., IL. (ECWd) –
Another statement from what appears to be a coordinated effort at discrediting those citizens who desire access to public records, and who publish their findings, the Clark County Park District attorney, Lorna Geiler apparently told the board something that the public could not hear – but Gary Strohm “heard it” LOL.

“Tens of Thousands spent on FOIA legal fees”

Really? “Tens of thousands” implies at least $20,000 to qualify as “tens” of thousands.

“According to the July 21, 2015 Marshall Advocate, the Park attorney, Lorna Geiler, told the board that “tens of thousands” of dollars of her legal fees over the past year have been related to FOIA requests.”

Since Strohm won’t tell his readers, I will: The article was written by Gary Strohm, current Clark County Park District Finance Committeeman, who’s business partner is Commissioner Ron Stone. That might give you an insight as to how this was reported.
We run across this same type of statement at every public body we deal with, and none of them have been able to prove their claims. It is all a public relations move to try and swing public opinion into thinking the public body has become the victim of “bad” people, which is simply not true.
I have submitted a FOIA request to the Park District to attempt to validate this claim of “tens of thousands” since no proof was shown when the claim was made. If current Park District actions continue, sometime in the next 6 months I will receive the answer to that FOIA request, but only after they incur more legal fees.
The bottom line in this situation is that Charity Murphy, the Executive Director, is the person causing all of the FOIA legal fees by not complying with the law. It is not that difficult and there is generally no need to consult an attorney when answering FOIA requests…that is, unless you have something to hide from the public. Truth be told, she spends more time fixing the FOIA “mistakes”, than it would take to simply provide the public records when asked.
One of these days, this board will figure out they do not have a choice when it comes to providing public records.
Nearly all of the FOIA legal fees are simply the result of Charity Murphy not knowing her job as FOIA Officer, or attempting to keep things from the public in which they end up providing after incurring the legal fees.
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9 Comments
  • Aware n Arcola
    Posted at 07:30h, 22 July

    The exact same thing took place in Arcola.The Arcola Township claimed they spent thousands on FOIA requests sent asking for taxpayer funded information.Instead of sending every request to their lawyer they should have answered each one with out delay.jmkraft is right,why spend any money at all on a lawyer if you have nothing to hide?The question answers itself!

  • jannie
    Posted at 07:35h, 22 July

    I agree – there isn’t a need for an attorney. The request is looked at – copies made – person requesting pays for the copies. I think all of this is just to intimidate citizens to not ask questions.

  • Robert O. Bogue
    Posted at 10:26h, 22 July

    Censorship.
    My response to these accusations made by board members and others was not allowed during this meeting. That is unfortunate. Unfortunate, because the opportunity to clarify the law and whom actually failed the county was denied. This is a fine example of censorship, control ignorance of the law and manipulation of the media in a democratic government.
    For those of you that are truly interested in better government and of course, the truth of the matter, then perhaps you will wander on line to the Illinois General Assembly page and review (5 ILCS 140) Freedom of Information Act. Here’s the address:
    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=85&ChapterID=2
    Then to continue on; to (5 ILCS 140/3 Section (from CH. 116, par. 203) part (d) (d) Each public body shall, promptly, either comply with or deny a request for public records within 5 business days after its receipt of the request, unless the time for response is properly extended under subsection (e) of this Section. Denial shall be in writing as provided in Section 9 of this Act. Failure to comply with a written request, extend the time for response, or deny a request within 5 business days after its receipt shall be considered a denial of the request. A public body that fails to respond to a request within the requisite periods in this Section but thereafter provides the requester with copies of the requested public records may not impose a fee for such copies. A public body that fails to respond to a request received may not treat the request as unduly burdensome under subsection (g).
    The Mill Creek Park, and FOIA officer Charity Murphy was required by law to respond with in 5 days. A response is defined as simply making contact or outright denying the request with a reason (as outlined in the FOIA law) for same.
    There is a reason that provision exists in the law, presumably so that misunderstandings and time schedules can be worked out if they exist and that is; the normal, routine, legal process.
    A request from a citizen is not a mandate to our government to produce any or all records requested unless it meets all conditions set out by the FOIA law and process.
    Charity Murphy did not respond to the request made with in the required 5 days: nor has she supplied any information relevant to this request to this date. She broke the law. How much effort did that really take?
    Now, ask your self how much in resource wasting as alleged by some, did that really cost the county when no response was offered. None. How much would be wasted if the FOIA officer has done her job by responding properly? None.
    Attacking a citizen for exercising his/her legal right to ask questions, as was done in this meeting only illustrates how ignorant those alleging to know the FOIA law truly are.
    The responsibility for this failure belongs to the Manager Charity Murphy and those members on the board that chimed in to her defense without reading the law. Board members in attendance such as Ewing, Stepp, Stone and others; all whom should have known better and all of whom should accept responsibility for their part, rather than attacking the public for following the law.

  • Dave L.
    Posted at 14:34h, 22 July

    You’re dealing with a bunch of people out there at the park that just don’t give a damn what the law says, or what you want, or what anyone else wants! And its really just that simple!! They just do not care! They think they are above the law! All you have to do is just look at Stepp, and Stone and Kuehnel, and their new puppet/yes man Ewing….they are so damn smug. These 4 have CONTROL of every single thing that happens. These 4 do not give a damn about this park. These 4 do not give a damn about the taxpayers. These 4 do not give a damn about the Watchdogs. And they never will. You are fighting a losing battle here, because these guys live for controversy, and you will ALWAYS lose. These guys will not be intimidated even if you brought the State A.G. to a meeting! Why? Because they JUST DON’T GIVE A DAMN!

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 16:10h, 22 July

      We’ve dealt with worse. They will eventually figure out that laws matter and the public is in charge, and we will be there until they figure it out.

  • PegB
    Posted at 11:29h, 23 July

    Intimidation is utmost in the mind of these public bodies. My husband was on city council and filed a PAC review for what he felt was an illegal meeting. The AG’s office felt there was sufficient evidence to ask for more info and they addressed that inquiry to the committee chairman. That chairman did not want to answer for his actions which caused the illegal meeting – he sent it off to the city attorney and then blamed my husband for costing the city thousands and thousands of dollars in attorney feels. With a very biased reporter keeping my husband in the headlines with negative reporting (borderline liable) I believe it cost him re-election. When the numbers are stacked against a few that are trying to do the right things the outcome is usually ugly and dishonest.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 12:44h, 23 July

      Sounds like you live in Marshall, IL.

  • John
    Posted at 14:20h, 24 July

    If you guys paid for all costs incurred by your foia requests you could avoid this type of criticism. Even though no numbers have been produced, you can’t deny that your activity does cause the county/state to incur costs. Without polling the resident tax payers for a majority consensus, is it really fair to expect them to shoulder your activity, especially at the high level at which your organization operates? I only ask this because I have encountered this topic in reference to your organization a few times now. If you consider the cost minimal, then it shouldn’t be a problem to finance it yourselves. This would eliminate this type of criticism. Because without a consensus you can’t legitimately say you speak for the people when engaging in this activity.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 17:15h, 24 July

      Costs incurred are stipulated by the statute, and we have not incurred any.
      The underlying point of the article, is that the public body is flat-out lying about the costs. This attorney has not billed for “tens of thousands of dollars” related to FOIA legal fees, and even if she billed half that, it was unnecessary and deliberate on the part of the Park District as an attempt at claiming victim status and painting requester as wasting money – when the money wasting is from the Park District itself.

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