Cook Co. (ECWd) -
In a clear message to public bodies, Cook County Judge Hon. Franklin U. Valderrama has sided with the public's right to records in a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case. In doing so, the 16-page opinion and order expose the legal maneuvering public bodies routinely follow in order to stifle the publics right to records. The public bodies actions point to the challenge the common citizen faces when trying to obtain records and sadly, they use tax money to fight us.
Fortunately, in this case, it failed and the public officials were hit with a both attorney fees and a civil penalty of $5,000.00, which we believe is the only way to send a message to these people so willing to withhold public records.
All too often they find reasons to not release records instead of realizing the exemptions are not mandatory, only optional. When public officials take the path of refusing to give records it tends to point to bigger problems.
I had to read this one three times to grasp the impact this case will have on enhancing our rights to records and the importance of this message as it relates to those public bodies who think FOIA is just a nuisance. The reality is, based on our findings, FOIA is an intricate tool to hold public officials accountable for how our tax dollars are spent.
More rulings like this one will only make things better in this state!
Thank you, Judge Franklin U. Valderrama!
You can download the opinion at this link or view below.