FOIAILLINOIS

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  • Governor signs “Molly’s Law”

    Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s office announced today that Rauner signed “Molly’s Law” which “..extend the period of time in which a victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit where the act is intentional and violent in nature.”

    According to the release:

    “…These bills strengthen Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act and extend the period of time in which a victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit where the act is intentional and violent in nature.

    “Today is an important day for Illinois families seeking justice,” Gov. Rauner said. “This bill provides families a longer timeframe to bring wrongful death actions against perpetrators of intentional violent crimes and gives families access to the necessary public information to find closure in a loved one’s death.”

    Molly’s Law is comprised of two pieces of legislation, HB 6083 and HB 4715. HB 6083 extends the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases and allows a lawsuit to be brought within 5 years after the date of the death or within one year after the criminal case against the perpetrator concludes.

    In addition, House Bill 4715 provides for additional fines – up to $1,000 per day — in cases where a public body fails to comply with a court order resulting from a FOIA action. It also incentivizes public bodies to act in a timely manner in response to binding opinions from the Attorney General in FOIA cases.

    “Today’s signing of Molly’s Law by the Governor is a victory for Molly Young’s family,” said Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), chief sponsor of both bills. “I want to thank the Governor for his attention to this very important issue and for traveling to southern Illinois to sign Molly’s Law today. I also want to thank Molly Young’s father, Mr. Larry Young, who traveled to Springfield to testify on behalf of Molly’s law to help ensure its passage.”

    Senator Christine Radogno, the legislation’s sponsor in the Senate, echoed Rep. Bryant. “The Young family was tenacious in their pursuit of this legislation. They worked with Rep. Bryant to help other families avoid a battle with bureaucracy in the pursuit of justice for their loved ones and closure in these circumstances,” Radogno (R-Lemont) said.

    In May 2015, a judge dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Larry Young ruling he failed to file the lawsuit within two years of Molly’s death.

    HB 6083 and HB 4715 go into effect on January 1, 2017.

    The release can be found at:  Rauner signs “Molly’s Law”

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  • The FOIA at 50

    The 50th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act has given way to state laws, but, writes the BGA’s Andy Shaw, the need for access to public records is greater than ever before.

    Shaw’s view can be found at FOIA at 50: Public records law important, often ignored

     

     

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  • Court ruling lifts injunction blocking police records

    The Better Government Association (bettergov.org) scored a major victory when The Illinois Appellate Court lifted an injunction blocking the release of alleged police misconduct records.

    In a release, the BGA said “…The BGA is pleased with the outcome and hails the ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court as a victory for transparency and accountability. Through the ruling, the court found that neither the union contract nor the Personnel Records Review Act allow or require the city to withhold the records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).”

    The complete release is at:  BGA Release

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  • CAC sets “Democracy Night” July 12

    The Citizen Advocacy Center will host “Democracy Night” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

    The event will showcase work by CAC interns.

    The event is free, but RSVPs are encouraged by phone at (630) 833-4080 or by email at cac@citizenadvocacycenter.org.

    Additional information is at: CAC Democracy Night

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  • CPS closes the door on public session

    The Chicago Public School, according to a piece written by DNAInfo’s Stephanie Lulay, ( CPS Kicks Reporters Out)  the meeting was about school expansion.  Lulay wrote that “…WBEZ education reporter Sarah Karp and Chicago Sun-Times reporter Andy Grimm were barred from entering the public meeting. This DNAinfo Chicago reporter was escorted out of the meeting by uniformed CPS security guards…” and that the move was ” part of CPS policy tonight. They don’t want any media inside the building.”

     

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  • Investigative grants available!

    Need helping defraying the cost of investigative stories, say an airline ticket or a FOIA request? We want to help. We have grants available, thanks to the generosity of the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

    Apply by April 29 for up to $575, or by July 29 for up to $2,000. While all journalists are eligible, we’re looking for those without the financial backing of a major news shop.

    Interested? Get more details and download our application here.

    Questions? Contact Alejandra Cancino at WriterAlejandra@gmail.com

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  • McCormick Foundation awards FOIAFest grant

    The Chicago Headline Club has received a two-year, $25,000 grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to support FOIAFest. The Headline Club’s annual daylong conference leads up to Sunshine Week and aims to celebrate the importance of access to public information.

    “This grant will allow the Headline Club to broaden its work to educate journalists on how to access information and how to keep government accountable,” Headline Club President Odette Yousef said. “This is critical work, and we are pleased and honored to have financial support from the McCormick Foundation for it.”

    The Chicago-based foundation supports a variety of endeavors, from journalism and the First Amendment to early childhood education and civic engagement.

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  • BGA investigation reveals strong-arm tactics by Streamwood Park officials

    If you have an opinion about how the Streamwood Park District does things, it may be wise to keep it yourself if you want additional information.

    According to an investigation by the Better Government Association, “…The northwest suburban agency repeatedly ordered board members and staff not to talk to a reporter or “any other person requesting information” and circulated a link with a photo of a reporter so they knew who to avoid at a recent public meeting, according to emails obtained by the BGA under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, the state law that guarantees access to certain government records…”

    The complete report can be found at BGA Report on Streamwood.

    Nice, huh?

    In an age when citizens are asking for more transparency, the folks who handle Streamwood’s parks and recreation facilities are thumbing their noses up not only at their constituency, by the media as well.

    The BGA reports the target is its own Katie Drews who was checking into various expenses by the Streamwood Park Board.  In addition to not providing her information without a FOIA request, according to emails Drews acquired, Streamwood Park District officials have instructed staff and Board members to not answer her questions during public meetings.

    As in open meetings.

    With Streamwood Park officials taking this kind of approach, one has to wonder if they have a policy about bullying.  If they do, they should take a look at it.

     

     

     

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  • Proposed restrictions to FOIA opposed by transparency advocates

    Advocates for public access and transparent government are voicing opposition to a bill that would place restrictions on FOIA requests regarding public facilities’ finances when they rent out space.

    Rep. Robert Rita (D-28) is the sponsor of HB 3621 which calls for further restrictions to the Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act.

    According to LegiScan.com, The bill, which is expected to be called today before the House Business and Occupational Licenses Committee, “…Amends the Freedom of Information Act. Denies home rule powers by providing that the regulation of the inspection and disclosure of public records of a public body is an exclusive power and function of the State. Exempts from inspection and copying under the Act incentives provided to and rent paid by persons, organizations, or businesses that agree to make use of a public facility for a convention, trade show, meeting, athletic contest, concert, musical, dramatic, or other artistic, cultural, or social event. Effective immediately.”

    The bill is actively being opposed by the Better Government Association, the Attorney General’s office, the Illinois Press Association, and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

    In an email to proponents of public access and transparency in government, the BGA noted that “…Our attorney believes that the bill would violate the Illinois Constitution, so we may not have anything to worry about. Still, Rita was the architect of last year’s HB 3796, the voluminous requester bill that got through the legislature…”

    In an informational packet prepared for legislators, the BGA warns that passage of the bill:

    *  Would hide public facilities’ finances when they rent out space

    *  Violates the principles of government transparency

    *  Violates the state constitution.

    *  Results in unnecessary legal costs before the courts invalidate it.

    The BGA also notes that:

    FOIA access to financial records about publicly owned facilities is necessary to allow the public to determine whether public officials are doing an effective job of collecting revenue from facilities that are owned by the public.

    Without transparency, it will be difficult to determine whether public officials are personally profiting from—or well-managing—public facilities.

    Under HB3621 provisions:

    * Crain’s might not have been able to report on threats to McCormick Place’s trade show business, including rental increases that drove away two trade shows and risked others, in the wake of politicized management issues. http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20111112/ISSUE01/311129979/crains-investigation-the-high-price-of-political-payback-at-mccormick-place

    * For U.S. Cellular Field, taxpayers fronted $150MM of its $167MM construction cost, and have made up shortages in hotel tax revenue going to the facility, but they would not be able to FOIA its financial dealings with facility users.

    * Bridgeview taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $250MM for Toyota Park, but under provisions of HB3621 would not be able to FOIA records on specifically how the facility generates income or what deals it offers. There is good reason for maintaining vigorous public oversight through FOIA.  The Chicago Tribune reported that “a significant portion of the borrowed funds acquired for the stadium project went to companies with ties to high-level village employees, political supporters of town leaders, and the mayor’s family.”http://northwesternbusinessreview.org/bridgewater-taxpayers-on-hook-for-toyota-park/

    The complete document can be found at: http://goo.gl/hkixxB

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  • Bill would private college police departments to comply with FOIA

    A bill filed Feb. 27 by Illinois  House Representaives Christian Mitchell (D-26) and Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) would require police and security departments operated by private colleges and universities to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

    HB3932 provides an amendment to the Private College Campus Police Act  http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=011010200K1 requiring those departments to adhere to the FOIA.

    The proposed amendment, filed Feb. 27,  had its first reading and was sent to the Rules Committee.  Currie chairs the Rules Committee.

    As submitted, the bill  “Amends the Private College Campus Police Act. Provides that a campus police department subject to this Act shall disclose to the public any information that a law enforcement agency would have to disclose under the Freedom of Information Act.”

    The Chicago Maroon posted the story on its web site March 6.  http://chicagomaroon.com/2015/03/06/new-bill-would-require-more-transparency-from-the-ucpd/

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  • Recent Posts

    • Governor signs “Molly’s Law”

      Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s office announced today that Rauner signed “Molly’s Law” which “..extend the period of time in which a victi…

    • The FOIA at 50

      The 50th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act has given way to state laws, but, writes the BGA’s Andy Shaw, the need for ac…

    • Court ruling lifts injunction blocking police records

      The Better Government Association (bettergov.org) scored a major victory when The Illinois Appellate Court lifted an injunction blocking the…

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