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April 24, 2024

Watchdog sues Coles County for Public Records –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On March 14, 2017


In the process of fielding complaints on massive hikes in assessed value of commercial real estate in Mattoon Township, I figured the first step would be to find out how the assessments were accomplished and what they used for their values.

I sent the Supervisor of Assessments (“SOA”) a Freedom Of Information Act (“FOIA”) request for a copy of the study conducted by the individual contracted to conduct the commercial assessments.

At first there was no answer, then the SOA wanted me to take records other than what I had requested, and then I was told the SOA sent the request to the contractor and State’s Attorney claiming the county didn’t possess any of the records, and work product of something like that.

The problem is that FOIA considers those records public records and requires the public body to retrieve them from the contractor:

5 ILCS 140/7(2) A public record that is not in the possession of a public body but is in the possession of a party with whom the agency has contracted to perform a governmental function on behalf of the public body, and that directly relates to the governmental function and is not otherwise exempt under this Act, shall be considered a public record of the public body, for purposes of this Act. 

So I had to file suit today in Coles County Circuit Court. My hope is the County produce the requested records – read it (HERE):

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  • John Pogue
    Posted at 23:25h, 14 March

    Fear of the truth is as much about inexperience, lack of education or pure cover-up. You guys are doing the right things for many. Congrats. John

  • Madison Black
    Posted at 07:46h, 15 March

    Just a thought. I doubt if Coles County
    can explain the assessment process, therefore they sure don’t want to disclose assessment process that is likely arbitrary. This case is a winner. The County should have had the common sense to comply with the Watch Dogs FOIA request. Now the taxpayers are forced to defend a FOIA lawsuit and the County has given the appearance to citizens that they have something to hide. Bad form on the County’s part.