BGA Sues Town of Lyons for Records in Federal Probe

The Better Government Association joins WBEZ in suing the southwest suburb for records it received as part of growing federal investigation.

The Better Government Association has joined Chicago Public Media in suing the village of Lyons to make public federal subpoenas and search warrants it received as part of an ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Both organizations sought the records through the state Freedom of Information Act but were denied any documents in a blanket, unsigned rejection. The denial didn’t cite any legal exemptions.

In late September, federal agents conducted “authorized law enforcement activity” at the village halls in Lyons and neighboring McCook and also “conducted investigative activity” at the village hall in nearby Summit. Those moves followed a raid of the Springfield and Cicero offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. All three towns are in Sandoval’s district.

The wide-ranging probe also has resulted in a subpoena to electric utility Commonwealth Edison as well as a politically connected asphalt company in Bartlett.

Following the raids, both the BGA and Chicago Public Media, which operates WBEZ-FM, requested any subpoenas, search warrants or other information Lyons officials received from federal investigators.

In its denial on Oct. 10, 2019, an attorney representing the suburb responded by forwarding a statement from the town’s unnamed “F.O.I.A officer” that denied the request, stating “the government has requested the village of Lyons provide no information concerning this matter.”

After being sued by WBEZ, the Illinois State Senate released the search warrant it had related to the raid on Sandoval’s office. The village of McCook had also supplied a redacted copy of documents it received as part of the McCook raid.

“Restraints on access to information, to the extent permitted by FOIA, are limited exceptions to the principle that the people of this state have a right to full disclosure of information relating to the decisions, policies, procedures, rules, standards, and other aspects of government activity that affect the conduct of government and the lives of the people,” states the lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 11 in Cook County Circuit Court.