DuPage Co. - (ECWd) -
During our past investigation into DuPage County local government, we exposed clear Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Act violations and reported on them in this article.
Since that exposure, we have had numerous on-going responses to the original FOIA request for information. In what will have to be a multi-part series, we will share the information streaming in from local government public bodies whose boards are appointed by Dan Cronin, DuPage County Chairman.
Our first response was from the DuPage Housing Authority and their responses are truly shocking, however, we suspect something took place behind the scenes as they finally provided information tied to their obligations under the law.
A FOIA request for OMA and FOIA training certificates to the DuPage Housing Authority March 20th, 2016, results are as follows.
If any training certification exists for any of the Commissioners, it was their decision to pursue the training as personal growth and development. The DuPage Housing Authority does not maintain training certification records for Commissioners of the DuPage Housing Authority as certification is not a requirement of the appointment.
Although we were created under the Illinois Statutes as a municipal governmental entity, we actually administer a federally funded program under the US Department of Housing and Urban Development that does not utilize state funds, nor is Commissioner certification training required…
Kenneth Coles, Executive Director
Did you get that?
For starters, it appears he is not even aware that the training is required and amazingly takes the position that any such training would be part of personal growth and development. He also takes the position that such training, is not a requirement for appointment. Well, he got that one right. The appointment comes from Dan Cronin with the advice and consent of the board.
Although the director acknowledges they are established under Illinois law he takes the position that since they spend federal money Commissioner certification training is not required.
My response to his statements:
"Are you taking the position that Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act law does not apply to you?"
His response on March 21st, 2016:
"No, not at all. Just that the document that you request, a “training certificate”, is not something that is utilized by the Commissioners of the housing authority, nor is that certificate required as a part of their appointment. There are a number of entities that provide training for housing authority Commissioners (Quadel Consulting, HUD and Nan McKay Consulting to name a few) but that training is elective, not required."
My next response:
"They are a requirement in the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.
Who is your FOIA officer?
Simply have them respond in accordance with the law."
For those that are not aware, the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act applies to every public body in the State of Illinois.
OMA - 5 ILCS 120/1.05b Except as otherwise provided in this Section, each elected or appointed member of a public body subject to this Act who is such a member on the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly must successfully complete the electronic training curriculum developed and administered by the Public Access Counselor.
FOIA - 5 ILCS 140/3.5 (b) All Freedom of Information officers shall, within 6 months after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 96th General Assembly, successfully complete an electronic training curriculum to be developed by the Public Access Counselor and thereafter successfully complete an annual training program.
April 1, 2016, well past the mandatory time frame for responding to a Freedom of Information Request I received this e-mail:
"Attached are the current training certificates for Open Meetings (OMA) for our Board of Commissioners (6) and FOIA for the DHA staff (3). There is one Commissioner who is not available to provide their OMA certificate. She is expected to be available prior to the next Board meeting on April 19 and the certificate will be provided to you at that time."
The very day after my FOIA we find that he took his FOIA training and the Attorney for the Housing Authority took the OMA training, although the attorney is not mandated to take it. I will assume his response was before taking the training, as the training should have educated him on the fact his response was not consistent with the law.
A review of the rest of the certificates reflects all but two took their training after my FOIA request. Another indication that a simple FOIA request does, in fact, bring compliance to the law.
A special thanks to Michael Brosnahan and John Berley who were the only Commissioners in compliance with mandated training.
DuPage Housing Authority receives a failing grade on FOIA and OMA compliance. They failed to provide a proper response within the timeline of the law and to date still have a sitting Commissioner not in compliance with the training. Those who have been appointed within 6 months get a pass, as that is the timeline for compliance for OMA training.
You can't make this stuff up!
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