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August 10, 2022

Sangamon Valley Public Water District – Are Games Being Played?

By Kirk Allen & John Kraft

On June 20, 2022

Champaign Co. (ECWd) –

Our first three articles on the Sangamon Valley Public Water District can be read at the following links, here, here, and here.

In the last article, we focused on the peculiar use of the words used in the response regarding emails we requested.  The SVPWD state, “No Records Available“.  Having read thousands of responses from public bodies we found the choice of the word “available” in the response to be out of the norm.  Normally, when a public body has no such record nor ever has, the response is “No Such Records Exist”?

As noted in the first article, the press release issued a position of the SVPWD as it related to the election vs appointment of the board members.

“SVPWD strongly believes that APPOINTING board members is in the best interest of the District”

Such a position needs a vote from the board.  As we continue to get to the bottom of numerous issues we are seeing with this public body, I asked for some more records. Below is the requested items and in bold is the response from the SVPWD.

1. A copy of the meeting agenda and meeting minutes in which a vote was taken that reflected the SVPWD believes appointing board members is in the best interest of the District. – Board minutes are available on our website
2. A copy of any audio/video recording of the meeting in which board members discussed and voted that the SVPWD believes appointing board members is in the best interest of the District. – No such records exist

Note they were silent about the agenda I requested in item number one. We did search the website and found no minutes that speak to the matter at all.  The fact they pointed me to the website indicates there are responsive records.  We resubmitted that request as we were unable to reasonably locate the records they claim are online, minutes, in which a vote was taken on the matter at hand.  We will update when they respond to that request but we anticipated the next response is going to be no such records exist.  If that is the case, the original claim in their press release would be untrue, as would be the initial response.

More interesting is the response to item number two, “No such records exist“. Now that is a normal response, and one we anticipated as the vast majority of the public bodies we have dealt with don’t have the courage to record their meetings as it would expose more than they bargained for.

If there were never any emails from the public we would expect a response of “No such records exist“, just as they did in the above response.  The fact they selected a much different response to our email requests indicates there may have been records but they are not available because someone deleted them.

Why do we say that?  Because we have seen FOIA officers put in a position where they are told by their boss to respond in such a fashion rather than be open and honest about the matter which could lead to further embarrassment as if electioneering with public resources is not bad enough.  If they were to respond with “No such records exist“, that indicates there are no records, period.  By responding with “No Records Available“, the public body may have deleted them so they are not available to them but the fact of the matter is that even deleted emails are public records that exist.

Stay tuned for the coverage of our most recent request for certain records.

 

 

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2 Comments
  • kathiann
    Posted at 10:54h, 21 June Reply

    No Records Available means no records available to you. The tricky use of words is rampant in today’s litigious society. Our government officials are mostly lawyers who try to circumvent or change the meaning of words. Hence, Bill Clinton stating “it depends on what the meaning of is is.” They twist and distort the meaning of language to fit the narrative they wish to promote. They hope we give up with these kinds of responses and go away. It’s deliberately vague to make us believe there are not records, but they would dispute they said that if you went to court. Good on you for catching the “sleight of hand” in their statement. Keep up the good work.

  • kathiann
    Posted at 10:58h, 21 June Reply

    A lawyer in a public meeting once openly stated that “they didn’t record meetings because it might come back to bite them.” I guess he thought he was being cute. When I started attending their meetings and recording them, their words and actions did indeed “come back to bite them.”

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