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FOI Fight in Danville

A recent situation in Danville is bringing Open Records to the forefront.  WCIA-TV reporter Aaron Eades covered the issue:

INBA's FOIA/OMA Chairman Bob Roberts weighs in:

"A housing task force whose members include city employees, which meets in a city building and which tackles public policy questions dealing with housing sure sounds like a public body.

Yet the city of Danville rejected landlord Kevin Flynn’s request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act for meeting documents, notes and e-mails, leaving Flynn to wonder aloud, “Why would somebody go to this length to fight something if they weren’t trying to hide something?”

We at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association have the same thought.

Danville’s city attorney says the public “always assume(s) that we’re hiding things from them or doing things from behind closed doors.”

Danville city attorney Dave Wesner uses a scare tactic – claiming that if Flynn prevails, it could make any document in the hands of a city employee a public record.  Hardly.

The Illinois attorney general’s public access counselor ruled that the records should be released.  The INBA believes that rulling takes a common sense approach to the definition of public records. The way our first amendment attorney, Don Craven, sees it, when city staff members, and therefore the city, have possession of certain records, that makes them subject to FOIA.

We’re disappointed that the city of Danville has decided to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. INBA hopes that the justices rule on the side of sunshine.  A little more transparency and a lot less in the way of stalling tactics is what the public needs. Now."