Paris, IL. (ECWd) -
The “Kings of Petty Politics”, the Prairie Press, as evidenced by their coverage of the fake Edgar County 911 issues prior to the 2014 election have cried foul when we attempted to verify what they were reporting as statements made by an Edgar County board member. The quotes attributed to county board member Farnham were false (“misquoted” is the word used by Karl Farnham himself) and I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any records that supported the statements Nancy Zeman attributed to him.
The Prairie Press, with egg on their face, wrote an opinion piece claiming it was an “Abuse Of FOIA”, which is clearly not the case. We wouldn’t expect the PP to understand how to verify statements made by public officials. It takes time, but we strive to provide the Truth, as opposed to quoting board members as making factual statements without any attempts at verification.
First of all, the County Clerk knew there were no records responsive to my FOIA request and he simply typed “There is no document responsive to your request.” in an email and hit the “send” button. It was important to receive this return email so we would have proof of our claims.
The PP Editorial claims asking someone, whose duty is to respond to requests for information, to type an 8 word response, is somehow harassment of county government, a waste of Griffin’s time, and a [waste of] taxpayer money to prepare a reply. Additionally, claiming it was an abuse of the FOIA system – something they know nothing about as evidenced by their writings throughout the past year.
Before we go further with this multi-part article, let’s focus on what an “Abuse of FOIA” is, by using the Freedom Of Information Act approved by the legislature. It does not define “abuse”, but does place definitions on frequent requesters, and people who request voluminous records.
Section 2(g) of the Freedom Of Information Act defines a “recurrent requester” as someone who, in the previous 12 months immediately preceding the request, makes:
1. A MINIMUM of 50 requests for records within a 12 month period
2. A MINIMUM of 15 requests within a 30 day period
3. A MINIMUM of 7 requests within a 7 day period
Additionally, requests from “news media” do not apply to “recurrent requesters”. The Edgar County Watchdogs are news media as the State of Illinois defines the term. So, even though we cannot be placed in the recurring requester category, we still did not even come close to exceeding the MINIMUM qualification as a recurring requester (if it did apply). We are also a non-profit, which is another exemption to this classification.
Section 2(h) defines a “voluminous request”, exempts “news media” and “non-profit” from it, and lists several things that could classify as a voluminous request, none of which apply to us, or even come close to meeting the threshold.
The above two sections of FOIA are what the legislature has determined a public body may claim when faced with FOIA request from individuals who may use FOIA more frequently then others. The statute never defines “abuse of FOIA”, and we suspect this may be the legislature’s way to curb some requests for public records.
We do not consider verifying statements made by public officials as abusing any FOIA system, but rather one of the reasons for what the FOIA system was made for. Otherwise a public official could just say anything and get it printed, which is what some "media" think should happen. YOU (the sheeple) must believe only what THEY (the press) tell you to believe.
We call it good reporting. It allows individuals to see and verify the actual records in question.
Stay tuned for Part II of our multi part exposure of “Kings of Petty Politics”.