When “public servants” lie . . .

By:  Diane Benjamin

It isn’t a secret that I work with the Edgar County Watchdogs (IllinoisLeaks).  John Kraft and Kirk Allen are responsible for over 100 so-called “public servants” leaving office for a variety of reasons.

John and Kirk started by investigating government waste, fraud, and abuse in their own backyards.  Today they get tips from all over Illinois because crimes are being committed and citizens have no where else to turn.  Too many local police, sheriffs, and State’s Attorneys refuse to prosecute corruption.  Google Edgar County Watchdogs, a long list of investigations they have led will appear, the latest being the College of Dupage.  The Chicago Tribune even did an expose on them.  https://blnnews.com/2015/03/02/ec-watchdogs-front-page-of-the-chicago-tribune/

That brings me to Arcola Township.  When public officials refuse to follow the law, it only makes investigators want to know more.  Kraft and Allen have filed lawsuits against them – just like me they are a victim of Lisa Madigan’s Office that may take years to rule, even on the simplest issues.  I filed the lawsuit against the City of Bloomington for the same reason.

A few weeks ago I sent a Freedom of Information Request for correspondence Arcola Township had written to State Senator Chapin Rose.  Instead of delivering the documents by email, the Township sent paper copies by registered mail.  Wasting taxpayer dollars must not be important to the Township.  Below is one of the letters I received:

Arcola006The letter claims Kraft and Kirk have filed over 40 FOIA requests.  I then filed another request for the 40+ FOIA’s they filed.

You can see them here:  EC Watchdogs FOIA requests There aren’t 40+, there are 27 beginning in April of 2013 and ending in December 2014.  One is even in response to what Arcola did give them, ECW wanted digit format instead of on paper, so really there was 26.

The letter written to Chapin Rose contains an obvious lie about the number of FOIA requests filed by Edgar County Watchdogs.  If Arcola Township had just handed over the requested documents, the lawsuits would not have been necessary.  Obviously the Watchdogs were following leads given to them by people who knew the issues.

John Clark lied to Chapin Rose, has refused to comply with the FOIA law, and wastes taxpayer money with Certified mail when email is free.  How can citizens still trust him?  Clark should immediately resign.

Tip to government:  When Edgar County Watchdogs (or me) sends a FOIA request, make life easy on yourself – just comply with the law.

19 thoughts on “When “public servants” lie . . .

  1. Diane, seems you are lying. FOIA request are counted by the items requested. In the list you provided, they made 83 FOIA requests by my count, not the 27 you claim. With your logic, you can request 458 different documents in one e-mail and consider it one FOIA request. Come on.

    I can’t blame the Township if they start sending responses via registered mail. They are being sued. I’d do the same thing.

    It would be nice to know what the Edgar County Watch Dogs are suing over. Please include such information in your blogs, instead of just glossing over those details.

    You further complain that the Township is wasting tax money. Yet, you used FOIA to make them spend time (which is money) and tax dollars to provide you with the exactly same thing you could have received for FREE from the Edgar County Watch Dogs – because you work with them already. Why not just get the information from them? Didn’t want to waste their money and time? Or, did you not trust them to provide you with all of the documents you wanted?

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    1. Scott MCCoy, YOU are greatly misinformed. A FOIA request is ONE written document, not the number of items requested on the document. Yes, according to the LAW, one written document is a FOIA request whether it asks for one item or twenty items on the written document.

      Please read the FOIA Statute (bottom of Section 2 http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=85&ChapterID=2):
      “For the purposes of this subsection (g), “request” means a written document (or oral request, if the public body chooses to honor oral requests) that is submitted to a public body via personal delivery, mail, telefax, electronic mail, or other means available to the public body and that identifies the particular public record the requester seeks. One request may identify multiple records to be inspected or copied. ”

      The Township has the capability of scanning and emailing these things so they did not need to send anything in the mail, let alone registered mail.

      You can see what they are getting sued over here: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/category/douglas-county/arcola-township/

      She asked for this information to verify the claim they made to Chapin Rose and Adam Brown, which proves they lied. Incidentally, one of the lawsuits is because the Township lied and claimed they did not have copies of my requests when Kirk submitted a FOIA (see page 25) for them to disprove a claim their attorney made in court.

      They have proven themselves not to be trustworthy.

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  2. Scott McCoy, FORMER Mayor of Pontiac – if that is how you screwed over people requesting information from Pontiac it’s no wonder you are the FORMER mayor and never ever need to be in public office again.

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  3. Wow, John.

    The “legal” definition of a FOIA request is not the umbrella method of the submitted individual requests. Each item requested can be dealt with individually, as some can be fulfilled and others can take more time and completed later — all from the same form or e-mail submitted to the public body.

    You need to re-read the section 2 of the code that you copy/pasted. A FOIA request specifically, “identifies the particular public record the requester seeks.” This means each “particular public record” request within the FOIA. Further, the code states, “One request may identify multiple records to be inspected or copied” which means you can specify a range within your request, like “pay stubs for Joe, Mary, and Ted.”

    Government bodies can accept FOIA requests multiple ways, including orally if they wish. Therefore, the definition of the method (i.e. a FOIA form, e-mail, online form, etc) is not specifically defined or required. This is why a “request” is the “particular public record” and not the document that request is submitted within.

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    1. ” “request” is the “particular public record” and not the document that request is submitted within.”

      That interpretation would lose in court any day of the week.

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  4. I will say that it can be read both ways, depending on who is reading it. It’s also a question that many government bodies have when getting requests via FOIA. I’ve been through a lot of training and seminars on FOIA, and there is much to be desired for both the government entities and for the public. This is what happens when you get lawyers involved in writing this stuff.

    But the general point is common logic. Submitting one FOIA with 1,499 individual document requests is not just one request. I think most people would agree with this logic. Otherwise, people would submit massive requests like this just to stay under the legal radar and tick off the government body they don’t like.

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    1. It is “one request” no matter how you read the statute. There are other mechanisms to determine unduly burdensome, etc, or simply the cost for paper copies would deter someone from asking for large amounts of documents.

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    2. Mr. McCoy, since when does government work with logic? Or should I say that logic is what the people whom they represent elect, to look out for the peoples’ better interests rather than a completely different course of logic which somehow benefits those same government officials.

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  5. What’s John Clark expect Chapin Rose do issue a decree to put a stop to FOIA’s ? Wah, want cheese with the whine?

    Scheme, I wonder if John Clark has any proof of his allegations? Let me guess the answer to that. I didn’t think so.

    Harassment, no FOIA requests.

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  6. FOIA pursuit has certainly become a legal game in Illinois, that’s for sure. What’s lost in this pissing match between the gadflies and the bureaucrat is a reasonable approach to reviewing and complying transparency requests. As with anything, each side blames the other and the victim is common sense. From an outsider’s point of view, both groups (Dianne and John Kraft) and the former Mayor make some sense. It’s like bridging a gorge though…

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    1. The discussion should be about the law, nothing more. The law says every document belongs to the people unless specifically excluded. Problems happen when the elected would rather keep secrets.

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  7. I in no way shape or form disagree with your last sentence. However, as a nation founded and guided by the living interpretation of law, I’m okay with occasional areas of grey.

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    1. That’s a scary statement! Living interpretation means that whoever happens to make the rules makes the laws. Somebody else takes charge and changes the interpretation. Sounds a lot like how we got into the mess we are in today.

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  8. It is absolutely not a scary statement! It’s a reflection of our legal process. The courts are used every single day to determine what contracts, intent, clauses, words, and yes, law mean. I’m not sure I follow your fundamental disagreement there.

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    1. That how abortion was made legal as well as gay marriage. Whoever appoints the most judges with their viewpoint gets to fundamentally transform the country – with or without the approval of the people.

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  9. So because abortion and gay marriage are legal it points to some design flaw? What would be your alternative? I’m genuinely interested.

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    1. State’s should decide issues, not courts. The people voted many times against gay marriage, it’s only legal because of judges. We used to have the ability to move from a state with government policies we don’t agree with. Now they are nationalized so we can’t. The Constitution doesn’t give government that power, but then the Constitution is now pretty immaterial.

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