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October 4, 2022

DuPage County – ACT Initiative Failures Part II

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On April 17, 2016

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 and began our multi-part series on each public body violating OMA and FOIA with Part I found at this link

The Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District (WMAD), who’s board members are appointed by Dan Cronin, DuPage County Chairman, earn a special note in this series.  They are a perfect example of neglect of duty and shrugging off their obligations to the law and charging it to the taxpayers.  They should all be removed for costing the taxpayers money.

My FOIA request of April 4, 2016, was pretty simple.  So simple that anyone who has actually taken the mandated training for Freedom of Information would be able to comply with the request with less than a few minutes of effort, however, that his not the case with WMAD.

April 7, 2016, I received this response

“I am the attorney for the above-referenced District and also the District’s FOIA officer.  I am responding to the FOIA request you sent to two of the Board members on April 4th, requesting OMA and FOIA training certificates.”

“Attached are the OMA training certificates for each of the Board members.  As you may know, the trustees are not required to undergo FOIA training unless they are designated FOIA officers.  None of the trustees have been designated as FOIA officers.  Nonetheless, 2 of the trustees have done the FOIA training, and I have also enclosed those certificates.  In addition, I have attached copies of my annual OMA and FOIA training certificates.”

Most people not familiar with FOIA may not catch the problems in the above response from the WMAD attorney who claimed to be the FOIA officer for the public body.

My response: 

FOIA outlines that an officer or employee of the public body are to be the FOIA officer?  Are you employed by the public body or contracted?

Lawyers response:

“I have an engagement letter with the District.”

The reason I asked is because the FOIA officer for a public body is required by law to be an “Official or employee of the public body”.

(5 ILCS 140/3.5)
    Sec. 3.5. Freedom of Information officers.
    (a) Each public body shall designate one or more officials or employees to act as its Freedom of Information officer or officers.

Not only is the public body violating section 3.5(a) of FOIA by spending taxpayer funds with a contracted attorney to be their FOIA officer, they violate section 3.(a) of FOIA as well.

(5 ILCS 140/3) (from Ch. 116, par. 203)
    Sec. 3. (a) Each public body shall make available to any person for inspection or copying all public records, except as otherwise provided in Sections 7 and 8.5 of this Act. Notwithstanding any other law, a public body may not grant to any person or entity, whether by contract, license, or otherwise, the exclusive right to access and disseminate any public record as defined in this Act.

So what we have here is a public body who has failed to perform their duty to appoint a FOIA officer who is an official or employee of the public body, and instead spent taxpayer money on an attorney and made them the FOIA officer.  Their actions have granted a person, by contract, the exclusive right to access and disseminate public records as defined in this Act.

My additional response to the attorney:

Since you are not an officer or employee you cannot be the FOIA officer.  (5 ILCS 140/3.5)
Sec. 3.5. Freedom of Information officers.
(a) Each public body shall designate one or more officials or employees to act as its Freedom of Information officer or officers.

She never responded to that communication. Interestingly, her web-site reflects she advises various government entities regarding compliance with the Open Meetings Act, Freedom of Information Act, Prevailing Wage Act, ethics requirements, and all other applicable state and federal statutes. (Web-site Link)

May we suggest the public body refuse payment for the services provided under this FOIA request as they should have been advised by the attorney that they can’t contract with an attorney to be the FOIA officer.

That does not mean an attorney for the public body can’t review the FOIA response being provided.  However, an FOIA for nothing more than training certificates for compliance with OMA and FOIA should not have taxpayer money spent on a lawyer to review such a simple request.

Ironically, the attorney in this situation has taken and provided the FOIA and OMA training certificates for herself.  Any bets if the public body had to pay for her to do that training?

Why is this another example of the  failure of the ACT initiative? 

  • Accountability Board members have neglected their obligations under the law.  They are appointed by Dan Cronin, County Chairman, with advice and consent of the County Board. When will such failures by public officials face accountability to the law?
  • Consolidation – How many mosquito abatement districts are needed?  Are they needed at all, and if so, why have they not been consolidated into one for Dupage County.  For the record, we understand many consolidations can’t happen without changes to the law, however that pesky little fact gets little sunshine in the bragging sessions of how great the ACT inititive is. 
  • Transparency – After being exposed to the law and the fact a contracted attorney can’t be the FOIA officer we received no response.  Real transparency would have dealt with the violation and taken corrective action.  We will follow up on this accordingly. 

The Wheaton Mosquito Abatement District receives a failing grade in regards to OMA and FOIA compliance, even though they had complied with their mandated training.  Taking the training means nothing if they don’t learn from it, and they continue to waste taxpayer funds paying an attorney to do the very thing they are obligated by law to do themselves.

[gview file=”https://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/OMA-FOIA-certificates-2.pdf”]

 

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2 Comments
  • Jon
    Posted at 08:11h, 18 April

    The money web of DuPage County. It’s a feeding frenzy supported by the stupid tax payers.
    This isn’t good government Mr Dan Cronin but rather in your face corruption supported by officers of the court. For how long has this culture existed costing the tax payers to pay for these law breaking public servants who help them selves to our stolen tax dollars while we work and try to make a honest living supporting our families.
    Who defends the taxpayers for the waste and stolen dollars over all these years?
    Thank you Edgar County Watchdogs. You guys are way smarter that the so called highly over paid public servants who think we are all to stupid to understand their games and connections to each other taking money out the back door. It’s a crime so turn your selves in and take the same medicine you all give to others.

  • Rob Johnson
    Posted at 08:46h, 18 April

    Lets talk serious failure of Mr. Cronin’s “ACT” Initiative. In an article published in the Daily Herald today (4/18/2016) the following:

    In 2014, the organization at OpenTheBooks.com quantified more than $200 million in no-bid contracts to COD foundation board members. The foundation was supposedly an independent charity, but COD successfully petitioned the state to destroy charitable audits, papers, and financial records in 2012.

    Mr. Cronin was a sitting member of the Foundation Board during some if not all, of $200 million in no-bid contracts to COD foundation board members. He resigned from the Foundation just ahead of the subpoenas coming down. Curious to say the least.

    The “ACT” Initiative is Rank Hypocrisy and sadly is being forwarded for the sole purpose of trying to increase Mr. Cronin’s political profile. How is any of this moving DuPage forward?

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