The Better Government Association held a watchdog training in collaboration with the League of Women Voters, McLean County. Attendees included concerned citizens from Bloomington, Normal, and surrounding communities of Shirley, Twin Grove, and Towanda.
The BGA’s Civic Engagement Coordinator, Annum Haider, opened the program by delivering “Ten tips on how to be a Watchdog.” This included pointers on how to observe government in communities and neighborhoods, how to monitor questionable behavior, and how to conduct relevant research.
BGA Attorney Matt Topic then talked in depth about the Illinois Freedom of Information Act's components and provisions. He also spoke about the Open Meetings Act.
Topic walked the audience through Illinois’ FOIA statute, dissected each provision and took citizens through the practical steps of learning who handles FOIA requests in various offices, how best to write a request, and what to expect from responding governments. Audience members were particularly interested in the types of documents redacted by government organizations and what do in case their FOIA request was denied.
Attendees who make FOIA requests after attending BGA Watchdog Training sessions are encouraged to share their FOIA experiences with the BGA and to send follow-up questions.
Watchdog Trainings are open to the public, free of charge, and can be conducted at various Illinois locations. To see the schedule for Watchdog Trainings, check the BGA events page on our website.