Illinois Police and Public Library Settle Public Records Lawsuit for $67,000 - PINAC News
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Illinois Police and Public Library Settle Public Records Lawsuit for $67,000

The Orland Police Department in Illinois has settled a lawsuit, paying out $12,000 for violating and not responding to Freedom of Information Act requests by local watchdogs.

Also, the Orland Park Public Library settled a lawsuit for $55,000 for the same reason.

The police department settled their lawsuit in October 2015, the public library settled their lawsuit in March 2015. Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan filed both lawsuits. The lawsuit and settlement can be found here.

Megan Fox and Kevin DuJan stay on top of local government in Illinois. The Orland Police Department refused to release records that included audio recordings that proved police harassment.

Fox & DuJan made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Orland Park Police Department asking for all documents, police reports, audio recordings, video, and police dash cam recordings relating to a 911 call made against them in July 2014 for passing out political flyers.

The dissemination of political flyers is First Amendment protected activity.

The police department not only failed to respond to the FOIA requests, but they even went as far to block Fox and DuJan’s email accounts from requesting police records.

Fox sent several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Orland Police Department after they blocked her email account. Fox’s attorney sent a copy of the outstanding unanswered FOIA request to the Orland Police Department’s attorney, but even that was ignored.

The Orland Police Department said that the email accounts were blocked because Fox sent harassing emails that were interfering with police business; the department also said that Fox’s emails contained computer viruses.

Fox’s and DuJan’s email accounts have been removed from the police department’s block list.

ILLEGAL PROCEDURE

The Orland Police Department has an ordinance in which all FOIA request must be submitted in writing on a formal form provided by the department. That ordinance is in violation of FOIA laws.

FOIA Section 3 (C) states, “A public body may not request that a request be submitted on a standard form”

The Orland Police Department’s FOIA form also requires the signature of requesters, but the FOIA does not require signatures to be on requests.

Fox alleged that the form was used as a way to intimidate the public from making FOIA requests.

In June of 2014, Fox made a FOIA requesting the library issued computer browsing history and Ipad browsing history of Orland Park Public Library employees Bridget Bittman and Mary Weimar. The library eventually denied that request, citing the records didn’t exist.

Under attorney pressure, the library conceded that the records do exist, but are not public record.

The FOIA law Section 2 (C) states that electronic data processing records are considered public records, regardless of physical form or characteristic.

In fact, the Orland Park Public Library Communications/Email policy states,

“The Orland Park Public Library has the right to collect logs of internet usage which may reveal information such as websites that have been accessed from staff workstations.”

The policy goes on to say:

“The Orland Park Public Library has the right to monitor employee use of library owned equipment and network access, and shall conduct audits of such at anytime.”

According to the lawsuit, other counts in the Orland Park Public Library (OPPL) lawsuit include:

“The OPPL refusing to produce handwritten notes and secret conversations that occurred during Board Meetings in violation of the Open Meetings Act.”

“The OPPL refusing to produce a list of the people it has banned from being able to comment on the Library’s Facebook page; this involves the OPPL blocking people who have criticized the Library and preventing them from being able to comment on its public Facebook page.”

“The OPPL refusing to produce the notes taken by Library employees at conferences they attended; this involves OPPL employees attending expensive conferences while the public is being prevented from reviewing what was said and done at the conferences to determine if these expenses are worthwhile.”

“The OPPL heavily redacting materials brought back from conferences so that the public is blocked from seeing even the names of speakers at the conferences and what topics were covered.”

Upon the $55,000 settlement, Library Director Mary Weimar stated the following:

“The agreement reflects the assessments by the parties of the costs and uncertainties of continuing to litigate their disputes and the benefits of managing the reoccurring and voluminous Freedom of Information Act”

Read the original lawsuit here.

 

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