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February 22, 2024

AG: Urbana Concealed Records on Police Chief –

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On November 22, 2023

Urbana, Ill. (ECWd) –

Article republished with permission from Check CU.

The City of Urbana, Illinois has violated public records laws once again, according to the Illinois Attorney General.

Nearly six months ago, Check CU published an article showing that Urbana officials were going out of their way to keep details about the Mayor’s new Police Chief pick a secret.  After receiving a records request from Check CU, Urbana FOIA Officer Ross McNeil denied all records related to Mayor Diane Marlin’s choice of Larry Boone as the new Police Chief, arguing that doing so “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy”.

Aside from the denial of records being a violation of the “10 Shared Principles” (adopted by the City and the Urbana Police Department in 2020) and clearly being contrary to the public interest, it also seemed clear that the denial was a violation of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

On May 2nd, 2023, Check CU sent a request for review to the Public Access Counselor (PAC) of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.  On November 21st, PAC Supervising Attorney Teresa Lim returned a response, asserting that the City had in fact illegally withheld the records related to Larry Boone.

“…the City did not demonstrate that disclosure of Mr. Boone’s application materials would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Although the City had not yet extended a job offer, Mr. Boone was not a mere pending applicant. The City had taken a step further by selecting and publicly identifying him as its top contender for Chief of Police. The City publicly announced this selection and subsequently arranged a meeting for members of the public to meet him in person. There is a significant public interest in information concerning the City’s next potential police chief. That individual would be expected to assume substantial responsibilities overseeing the City’s public safety and serve as a public figure for the police department. Although Mr. Boone’s application materials contain personal information concerning his background, the information is presented in a favorable manner and does not appear to contain embarrassing or detailed information about highly personal matters, such as personal relationships or medical conditions. Instead, the information generally illustrates Mr. Boone’s experience and qualifications to handle the public duties of a police chief.”

In addition to their illegal concealment of public records, Urbana City staff made other efforts to keep the public cut off from the Police Chief selection process.  In early May of this year, Urbana City staff arranged a “town hall” to give Larry Boone a public speaking opportunity, but contrary to the meaning of a town hall, the public was not allowed speak.  Moderator Tracy Parsons even aggressively admonished a member of the public who tried to raise their hand during the event.

This determination from the PAC is just one of dozens over the past few years, plus a number of lawsuits, which have repeatedly shown Urbana to be violating public records laws.  Thus far, the City Council has declined to take any meaningful action to correct the unlawful conduct of City officials, who regularly engaged in illegal conduct regarding the release of public records.

PAC Supervising Attorney Teresa Lim’s full determination letter is provided below:

Urbana, Illinos Violates FOIA on Larry Boone Police Chief Records (2023 PAC 76460)

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2 Comments
  • Jack Tarleton
    Posted at 10:51h, 22 November

    Why is it so hard for these people to understand that when you are conducting public business, you don’t have a right to privacy– at least as far as that public business is concerned?

  • Dave
    Posted at 11:51h, 22 November

    Nice job Dogs…. maybe someday all local govt will understand the meaning of public records

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