by Diane Benjamin
From Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s website: http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/default.aspx
Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes that an open, honest and accountable government, the cornerstone of a democracy, can be achieved only through the free and open exchange of information between government and the public. In Illinois, our most important transparency laws – the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA) – endeavor to open the workings of government to the public, shed light on government actions and, in the process, strengthen our democracy.
In 2009, Attorney General Madigan worked with legislators and open government advocates to draft and pass landmark legislation (Senate Bill 189, Public Act 096-0542) to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act to increase the transparency and accountability of governments at all levels. This law went into effect on January 1, 2010 and provides new tools and provisions to make certain the public has timely access to public records and public meetings.
The updated law makes it easier to enforce FOIA and OMA and fight for open and accountable government by making permanent the Public Access Counselor position within the Attorney General’s Office and empowering the Public Access Counselor with the authority to resolve FOIA and OMA disputes.
Politicians excel at passing laws to make themselves look good. They are great at proclaiming they are for the “little guy”. Actions, however, speak louder than words.
Lisa Madigan is a perfect example. She gloats about strengthening the Open meetings Act to hold government accountable. Madigan is in charge of the Public Access division. Public Access is charged with investigating violations and they issue rulings on cases filed with them. They have failed to rule on three Open Meetings Act violations I filed with them, 2 are over one year old. One of those wasn’t investigated further because the City of Bloomington failed to respond to 2 letters sent to them by Public Access. The only picked up the investigation up again when I asked what the status of the case was.
Evidently the only way to have open and honest government is to file lawsuits. Your Illinois Attorney General is not capable of doing the job.
I received this response:
Dear Ms. Benjamin:
Thank you for contacting the Public Access Bureau. You have asked for a status update for three matters, two of which I’m handling: 20395 and 21940. The other matter is assigned to Matt Rogina.
For 20395, I made my recommendation to the Public Access Counselor, Sarah Pratt, and the determination letter is pending with her. For 21940, we received the City of Bloomington’s response on September 24, 2013, and you filed your reply with our office on September 25, 2013. The matter is under review in our office. Once a determination has been made, we will send copies of the determination letters to both you and the City. Thank you for your patience.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Attorney General
Public Access Bureau
Illinois Attorney General’s Office
100 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Tel: (312) 814-5201
A decision has been made on one, it doesn’t say when, but it was before October 14th, so how long does it take to write it up? Ms. Levine said one is being handled by another attorney, but I have yet to receive the status of that case. I don’t know what office he works in (Chicago or Springfield) and she sent no contact information for him. It must be my responsibility to find out where he works.
Government can say they exist to protect citizens. Obviously, even at a local level, they aren’t capable of doing it.