BGA OpenGov is the Illinois affiliate of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
Transparency is a foundational principle 0f democracy, and the BGA is here to advocate on your behalf. Without access to information about the workings of government, it would be impossible for citizens to determine whether taxpayer dollars were being spent responsibly, efficiently and equitably or to hold public servants accountable for their actions.
The BGA promotes transparency through
- Journalism that exposes government mismanagement and corruption, generates debate and surfaces solutions
- Policy work to strengthen and defend the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act.
- Legal action when necessary to fight government secrecy
- Civic engagement to inform and empower citizens, including providing tools to unlock FOIA and OMA
About our work:
We are leaders in the fight to make police misconduct records publicly accessible
We joined an amicus brief in a lawsuit arguing that the Chicago Police Department’s disciplinary records could not be destroyed, despite a provision in the FOP contract. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed.
We opposed a settlement drafted by the Chicago Law Department that would have kept the records secret. The City Council tabled the settlement.
Working with Ald. Scott Waguespack, the Chicago Inspector General and the Invisible Institute, we helped draft and promote a city ordinance to make that archive easily accessible.
We withdrew support for the ordinance when Mayor Lightfoot watered it down.
We joined fellow members of a Lightfoot transition team committee in urging her to support the original ordinance. Both versions of the ordinance are currently sitting in committee.
We fought to preserve government transparency during the Covid-19 pandemic
We noted that local governments were denying FOIA requests as “non-essential” and even announcing that FOIA compliance was “suspended” during the pandemic.
We authored a position paper, recruited allies and circulated it to press and policymakers.
The BGA’s Marie Dillon and outside counsel Matt Topic co-authored an op-ed about this in the Chicago Tribune. Dillon wrote a second op-ed for the State Journal-Register.
In the final hours of the remote legislative session, we successfully headed off a last-minute maneuver to retroactively suspend FOIA during Covid. (This was backed by the Municipal League.)
We produced a Zoom event about fighting for FOIA/OMA during the pandemic. Outside counsel Matt Topic and NFOIC Executive Director Dan Bevarly joined the BGA’s Marie Dillon and CEO David Greising.
We learned that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had been holding conference calls with the City Council that were not posted or open to the public. So we sued. The meetings stopped, but Lightfoot maintains that they were legal. The lawsuit is pending. Here is our op-ed in the Chicago Tribune.
We opposed Circuit Court Clerk Iris Martinez’s transparency bill because it fell far short of her campaign promise to make the office subject to FOIA.
We argued for greater transparency in the Legislative IG’s office.
We supported NPR journalists when the University of Illinois silenced them for reporting on mishandling of sexual assault claims on campus. Our efforts included publishing an op-ed, testimony from CEO David Greising at the University of Illinois Board of Trustees meeting, and a lawsuit seeking documentation for the legal argument behind the policy.
We joined advocates nationwide in calling for transparency around the George Floyd protests. We also joined in calling for press protection during coverage of those protests.