Matt Topic (773) 368-8812
Robert Herguth (312) 821-9030
CHICAGO—The Better Government Association filed five lawsuits in recent days against city, county and state agencies for their failure to comply with the state’s open records law.
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or "FOIA," guarantees public access to public documents, except in limited circumstances.
But the BGA found that local government, including the Emanuel administration, often ignores FOIA requests or blows through deadlines set by statute – flouting not only the law but also ignoring the interests of the people paying their salaries, taxpayers.
The lawsuits include allegations against:
- The Chicago Police Department, which has failed to turn over emails between Supt. Garry McCarthy and a businessman-friend with admitted ties to reputed mob figures.
- Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration, which has refused to turn over emails between the governor and top aides.
- Chicago Public Schools, which has failed to turn over various financial and contractor records.
- The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, which has refused to turn over a variety of documents that could be used to assess performance of the prosecutorial agency.
- City Colleges of Chicago, which refused to turn over photos of system employees, including Chancellor Cheryl Hyman.
"CPD, CPS and City Colleges are all under the domain of Mayor Emanuel, so we’re wondering what happened to his commitment to transparency?" said BGA President and CEO Andy Shaw. "We are seeing a disturbing trend here with city government – to the detriment of the public."
"But the city isn’t alone, Gov. Rauner’s office and Anita Alvarez’s office are also refusing to comply with the law and turn over records that are in the public interest," Shaw said. "It’s unfortunate we have to go to court to make these folks comply with FOIA, which exists to ensure the public and watchdogs can look over the shoulder of government. We’re tired of being given the ‘cold shoulder’ by public officials."
It’s worth noting this is the fourth lawsuit against CPD in less than a year and the second against CPS – an agency that previously claimed it is committed to following the law and improving what has been a woeful FOIA record.
The Better Government Association is a Chicago-based nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group that works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.