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May 18, 2024

FOIA Lawsuit costs Community College and Foundation $500,000.00 –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On November 18, 2017

College of DuPage (ECWd) –

That’s right – Half a million dollars. In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit pitting the Chicago Tribune against the College of DuPage and the College of DuPage Foundation, the Chicago Tribune registered a decisive victory in the Appellate Court earlier this year. A fee hearing was recently held and the Court ordered COD and its Foundation to pay the Tribune for its attorney costs.

Read about this landmark victory at the Chicago Tribune’s webpage (here). Congratulations Chicago Tribune!

This suit was more about the Foundation’s refusal to comply with FOIA than COD, who had encouraged the Foundation to comply to no avail. The Foundation held the requested document, which contained no earth-shattering information, and refused to provide it under FOIA in 2015. Read the document (here) and ask yourself why anyone would spend any time in Court trying to defend refusing to provide it under FOIA.

During the Appeal, the Foundation’s attorney seemed obsessed with the Edgar County Watchdogs – which had no part in the lawsuit – and obsessed to the point of having an Appellate Judge tell him “if you want to spend your time talking about that. . . that’s fine, but I am talking about a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena“…incidentally, that same Foundation attorney did not know what Dillon’s Rule was, and another Appellate Judge had to explain it during the Appeal.

Enough about COD and the Foundation – this article, and these costs, should serve as a cautionary tale to the City of Carlinville, who is currently fighting at least 4 FOIA lawsuits for public records that are clearly subject to release.

Among what Carlinville is fighting to keep from releasing:

  • Credit card statements
  • Cell phone statements
  • OMA and FOIA proofs of training
  • Copy of FOIA requests (without responsive documents)
  • Timecards
  • IP Address data
  • Meeting recording, agenda, notice, and minutes

Simple things that the City Council is willingly throwing your hard-earned tax money at – only to lose in the end.

Former Carlinville resident Billy Sprague seems happy the city is wasting tax money in this fashion, asking why it is a bad thing the city won’t comply with FOIA, saying it is within the rights of a Municipality to fight it in court (and we agree it is their right) – but will Sprague also blame the municipality if and when they are forced to pay attorney fees, costs, and penalties? Or will he blame us for “wasting” city funds (when the blame lies on the city)?

The Freedom of Information Act is a law, and all records are presumed to be public records. Compliance with FOIA is a primary duty of a public body…just as primary as police protection, fire departments, animal control, etc.

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  • Sherry Brianza
    Posted at 10:16h, 18 November

    Good for The Chicago Tribune! What comes to mind is “It’s not the crime but the cover up”?! Don’t think our town can afford not to comply??

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 10:23h, 18 November

      Exactly – and it is not earthshattering information I am after in Carlinville either. They (Mayor Demuzio and friends) say nothing inappropriate was purchased, but insist on going to court over credit card statements. Go figure…

  • Matt Turley
    Posted at 10:37h, 18 November

    Billy Sprague will probably be fine with the city wasting all that money on lawsuits since the loser lives in Alton now last I knew.

  • Paul Smithton
    Posted at 11:49h, 27 November

    Pretty sure the Plaintiff is the one who insists on going to court… Could be wrong, though. I don’t spend nearly as much time doing “statutory construction” as you guys do.