Free FOIA Seminar in DeKalb

NIU will host the first of about a dozen November seminars covering key changes to Illinois transparency laws on Monday, November 9, in the Holmes Student Center. The informational seminars, offered by the Illinois Attorney General’s office, are free and intended for both public officials and other residents who are interested in changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA) that will go into effect at the beginning of next year.

Monday’s seminar will run from 1-3 p.m. in the Sky Room on the 16th floor of the Holmes Student Center. Although it is free, registration is required because seating is limited.

For more information, e-mail specialevents@atg.state.il.us or phone the Conference Registration Line at 1-866-376-7215.

The seminar does not take the place of required state training for FOIA and OMA officers of governmental units.

H/T B.F.

City Clerk Implementing New FOIA Standards Now

The new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legislation has an effective date of January 2010, but DeKalb’s Office of the City Clerk will not not wait until then to begin implementing policy and procedural changes in fulfilling FOIA requests.

In fact, at least two changes — that of charging for copies of documents only after the first 50 pages, and charging .15 per page copied — have already been made by the office on an informal basis, according to Steve Kapitan, who has been working as Clerk for about three months. The old practice was to begin charging for copies after the first 15 pages, he said.

“Now that the law has been signed I will be changing the policy formally, including making a change on the FOIA forms in the office and on the web site,” said Kapitan, who also stated an intention to calculate and charge the exact cost of copying. Continue reading City Clerk Implementing New FOIA Standards Now

SB 189 > Public Act 096-0542

Gov. Quinn signed Senate Bill 189, the upgrade to FOIA. The full text can be read at this link. It takes effect January 1, 2010. It seemed to take him a while to get around to signing it but I see that his office created a new Web site which is here: http://accountability.illinois.gov/.

This is very important legislation, important enough to throw a party. There should be a FOIA-writing party on the afternoon of January 1, 2010. Continue reading SB 189 > Public Act 096-0542

FOIA Request Rejection & Appeal

Kay’s post about Governor Quinn’s signing the new, improved FOIA legislation is great news, but comes too late to help with this current and ongoing situation.

Let’s start with a recap of events. I have been trying to obtain, via the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), ReNew:DeKalb meeting minutes. Re:New, as a private organization, does not have to respond under FOIA directly; however, a provision of its contract with the City of DeKalb requires it to submit certain documents to the city. Here is the provision of the Re:New contract (p. 249) upon which I have based my requests:

SUBMISSION OF ANNUAL BUDGET, AUDITOR’S REPORT & MEETING MINUTES: ReNew DeKalb shall annually submit a copy of their approved annual budget and Auditor’s Report and copies of any board meeting minutes of any meeting where the receipt or use of City funding is discussed or acted upon within thirty (30) days of the approval of such documents.

“City funding” is not specific to Re:New’s annual allocation. It includes the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) monies, too. The Egyptian Theatre has the same provision in its contract with DeKalb (p. 242) and its allocation is TIF funding (p. 237). Re:New is all about TIF, from the Architectural Improvement Program (AIP) to special projects like the skating rink. In fact, it would be surprising to find out that there are any Re:New meetings whatsoever that don’t discuss some aspect of the use of city funding. BTW, this has Open Meetings Act implications, too, but that’s a separate complaint. Continue reading FOIA Request Rejection & Appeal

City: Breach of Contract? No problem!

Near the end of the Council meeting tonight, I argued against Re:New DeKalb’s getting another agreement with the City of DeKalb because of breach of contract. Re:New has not been turning in the documentation called for (which could then be accessed via the city through the Freedom of Information Act) nor has it been following the Open Meetings Act. I can verify this provision has been ignored for at least two years.

The mayor mumbled something about having Legal look into it, then called for a vote on the resolution with no further discussion. Re:New gets $45,000 of our money this year and follows whatever rules it wants to. Or none, I guess.

A lot of other business was conducted tonight, almost none of it good. Use this as your council meeting open thread if you like.