Text of the Overturning of Jack Franks’ FOIA Denial of His Inaugural Speech

Here is the latest evidence that McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks is not living up to his promise to be transparent.  (Sentences in paragraphs have been separated to make them easier to read.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL

March 23, 2017

Via electronic mail Mr. Cal Skinner
McHenry County Blog
275 Meridian Street Crystal Lake, Illinois 60014
[email protected] com Via electronic mail

Mr. Scott Hartman
Deputy County Administrator McHenry County Administration
2200 N. Seminary Avenue
Woodstock, Illinois 60098
[email protected] mchenry. il.us

RE: Request for Review — 2016 PAC 45451

Dear Mr. Skinner and Mr. Hartman:

This determination letter is issued pursuant to section 9. 5( 0 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 ILCS 140/ 9. 5( f) (West 2014).

For the reasons that follow, the Public Access Bureau concludes that the response by McHenry County ( County) to Mr. Cal Skinner’ s FOIA request violated FOIA.

On December 7, 2016, Mr. Skinner submitted a FOIA request to the County seeking a copy of a written document from which County Board Chairman Jack Franks Chairman) read certain comments to the County Board and the public at a December 5, 2016, county board meeting.

On December 14, 2016, the County denied the request pursuant to section 7( 1)( f) of FOIA (5 ILCS 140/ 7(1)( f) (West 2015 Supp.), as amended by Public Act 99- 642, effective July 28, 2016 ).

The County also asserted that the document is not a “public record” under the definition of that term in section 2(c) of FOIA (5 ILCS 140/ 2)(c) (West 2015 Supp.)).

On December 14, 2016, this office received Mr. Skinner’s Request for Review contesting the denial of his request.

On December 20, 2016, this office forwarded a copy of the Request for Review to the County and asked it to provide a detailed legal and factual basis for its conclusion that section 7(1)( f) was applicable to the record.

This office also asked for a detailed explanation of its assertion that the requested record is not subject to the requirements of FOIA because it is not a public record as defined in section 2(c) of FOIA.

On December 29, 2016, the County responded that the document was a “personal preliminary draft and notes prepared by an elected official on his personal computer in preparation for making his personal remarks at a County Board Meeting” which “does not meet the definition of a public record.”‘ (FMN 1)

Further, the County asserted that it does not possess the record and therefore it was unable to provide a copy of the record for this office’s confidential review or in response to Mr. Skinner’s FOIA request.

Additionally, the County stated that, ifit was a public record, it would be exempt from disclosure under section 7(1)( f) as the ” preliminary draft of and notes for” the chairman’ s remarks. (FN 2)

On January 5, 2017, this office forwarded the County’ s response to Mr. Skinner.

He replied on January 5, 2017, and January 13, 2017, disputing the County’ s contentions that the document is not a public record and that it is a preliminary draft rather than a final copy.

He suggested that the County redact any portions of the notes that were scratched out and not read by chairman, and disclose the remainder.

= = = = =

FN 1 Letter from Sarah P. Zurek, Assistant State’ s Attorney, Office of the State’ s Attorney, McHenry County, to Marie Hollister, Assistant Attorney General, Illinois Attorney General’ s Office ( December 29, 2016), at 1.

FN 2 Letter from Sarah P. Zurek, Assistant State’ s Attorney, Office of the State’ s Attorney, McHenry County, to Marie Hollister, Assistant Attorney General, Illinois Attorney General’ s Office ( December 29, 2016), at 1.

= = = = =

DETERMINATION

Section 2( c)

FOIA requires that “[e] ach public body shall make available to any person for inspection or copying all public records.” 5 ILCS 140/ 3(a) (West 2014)). Section 2(c) of FOIA broadly defines “public records” as “all records * * * and all other documentary materials pertaining to the transaction ofpublic business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body.”

By emphasizing that it does not have physical custody of the notes at issue and by characterizing them as a “personal preliminary draft” prepared by the chairman on his “personal computer in preparation for making his personal remarks,” the County’ s response to this office appears to assert that the notes are the chairman’ s personal property rather than “public records.”

The requirements of FOIA, however, are not limited to those records prepared with a public body’s equipment and physically maintained by the public body.

In Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science & Technology Policy, No. 15- 5128, 2016 WL 3606551, at * 1 ( D. C. Cir. July 5, 2016), the District of Columbia Court of Appeals considered a federal agency’ s argument that e- mails pertaining to the agency’ s business and policymaking ” were ‘beyond the reach of FOIA'” because the agency’ s director maintained them “in an ‘account’ that ‘is under the control ofthe Woods Hole Research Center, a private organization.’

The court disagreed, stating, that there was no indication that the private organization had exclusive control of the e-mails or that the agency director was unable to access the e- mail account:

“If the agency head controls what would otherwise be an agency record, then it is still an agency record and still must be searched or produced.”

Competitive Enterprise Institute, No. 15- 5128, 2016 WL 3606551, at * 4.

The court added that the agency’ s position was incompatible with the purpose of federal FOIA ( 5 U. S. C. § 552 et seq. ( 2012)):

The Supreme Court has described the function of FOIA as serving the citizens’ right to be informed about what their government is up to.

“If a department head can deprive the citizens of their right to know what his department is up to by the simple expedient of maintaining his departmental emails on an account in another domain, that purpose is hardly served.

It would make as much sense to say that the department head could deprive requestors of hard-copy documents by leaving them in a file at his daughter’s house and then claiming that they are under her control. Competitive Enterprise Institute,_ No. 15- 5128, 2016 WL 3606551, at * 4.

Likewise, the Illinois FOIA is intended to ensure public access to “full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act.” 5 ILCS 140/ 1 (West 2014).

In Ill. Att’y Gen. Pub. Acc. Op. No. 16- 006, issued August 9, 2016, the Attorney General issued a binding opinion which concluded that e-mails pertaining to the transaction of public business that were sent or received on the personal e-mail accounts of Chicago Police Department (CPD) employees are subject to the requirements of FOIA.

CPD contended that the e- mails were not public records because they were prepared and possessed by individual officers but were not received and used by CPD. Ill. Att’ y Gen. Pub. Acc. Op. No. 16- 006, at 7.

This office rejected that argument as “erroneously focus[ing] not on the content of a communication but on the method by which it is transmitted.” III. Att’y Gen. Pub. Acc. Op. No. 16- 006, at 7.

The Attorney General went on to conclude that:

Interpreting the definition of “public records” in FOIA to exclude communications pertaining to the transaction of public business which were sent from or received on personal e-mail accounts of public officials and public employees would be contrary to the General Assembly’s intent of ensuring full and complete information regarding the affairs of government.

Such an interpretation would yield an absurd result by enabling public officials to sidestep their public duties simply by communicating via personal electronic devices. Ill. Att’ y Gen. Pub. Acc. Op. No. 16- 006, at 7.

This reasoning is equally applicable to the record at issue in this matter.

If records pertaining to public business created by individual elected officials on personal computers and maintained outside of their public body’s offices were beyond the reach of FOIA, elected officials could conceal records documenting how they conducted their public duties by simply electing not to use their public bodies’ electronic devices and recordkeeping systems.

FOIA cannot reasonably be construed as giving elected officials the option to operate in secrecy in that manner.

The Board’ s response to this office acknowledged that the chairman used the notes to assist him in making remarks as the newly elected Chairman * * * at the first meeting of the new county board. (FN 3)

 

Such records used by the head of a public body during a meeting of the public body “unequivocally  pertain to the transaction of public business.” 5 ILCS 140/ 2( c) West 2014); see also Walloon Lake Water Sys., Inc. v. Melrose Twp., 163 Mich. App. 726, 729- 30 415 N.W.2d 292, 294- 95) ( 1987)  (letter read aloud during a township board which the board considered in deciding that the subject of the letter did not require township action was subject to the requirements of the Michigan FOIA  (MJC. L. § 15. 231 et seq. ( West 1984)) because it was used … in the performance of an official function. (FN 4).

= = = = =

FN 3 Letter from Sarah P. Zurek, Assistant State’ s Attorney, Office of the State’ s Attorney, McHenry County, to Marie Hollister, Assistant Attorney General, Illinois Attorney General’ s Office  (December 29, 2016), at 1

FN 4 The Michigan FOIA defined a ” public record” as “[ a] writing prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body in the performance of an official function, from the time it is created.” M. C. L. § 15. 232( c) ( West 1984).

= = = = =

Because the notes at issue were used by the chairman to conduct public business in his capacity as the head of the County Board, this office concludes that they are ” public records” under section 2( c) of FOIA regardless of whether they were prepared and maintained on County or privately -owned equipment.

Section 7(1)( d)

All public records in the possession or custody of a public body are “presumed to be open to inspection or copying.” 5 ILCS 140/ 1. 2 ( West 2014); see also Southern Illinoisan v. Illinois Dept. ofPublic Health, 218111. 2d 390, 415 ( 2006).

A public body “has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence” that a record is exempt from disclosure. 5 ILCS 140/ 1. 2 ( West 2014).

The exemptions from disclosure are to be narrowly construed. Lieber v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois Univ., 176 111. 2d 401, 408 ( 1997).

Bare conclusions without a detailed rationale do not satisfy a public body’s burden of explaining how exemptions are applicable.

See Rockford Police Benevolent and Protective Ass’ n. Unit No. 6 v. Morrissey, et al., 398 Ill. App. 3d 145, 151 ( 2d Dist. 2010) ( citing Illinois Education Ass’ n v. Illinois State Board ofEducation., 204111. 2d 456, 464 ( 2003)).

Section 7(1)( f) exempts from inspection and copying “[p] reliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated, except that a specific record or relevant portion of a record shall not be exempt when the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.”

The section 7(1)( f) exemption applies to ” inter- and intra -agency predecisional and deliberative material.” Harwood v. McDonough, 344 Ill. App. 3d 242, 247 ( 1st Dist. 2003).

The section 7(1)( f) exemption is “intended to protect the communications process and encourage frank and open discussion among agency employees before a final decision is made.” Harwood, 344 III. App. 3d at 248. see also Kalven v City of Chicago, 2014 IL App ( 1st) 121846, ¶ 24, 7 N.E. 3d 741 748 ( 2014), quoting Public Citizen, Inc. v. Office ofManagement & Budget, 598 F. 3d 865, 876 ( D. C. Cir. 2010) (“[ o]nly those portions of a predecisional document that reflect the give and take of the deliberative process may be withheld.”).

The speech that Jack Franks read at his first meeting as McHenry County Board Chairman.

The County’ s response to this office asserted that the Chairman never publicly cited or referenced the document in question, and that it was only used as a preliminary draft and notes for remarks that were delivered during a County Board meeting.

The response asserted that the final version of this document is the recording of the speech that is available on the County’ s website.

The ability of this office to conduct a full review of whether or not the notes are exempt from disclosure pursuant to section 7(1)( f) is limited by the County’ s failure to provide a copy of the notes for this office’s confidential review as expressly required by section 9. 5(c) of FOIA ( 5 ILCS 140/ 9. 5(c) ( West 2014)).  (FN 5)

In particular, this office is unable to compare how consistent the notes are with the recording ofthe comments that the chairman made at the County Board meeting.

= = = = =

FN 6 Section 9. 5( c) of FOIA provides: “Within 7 business days after receipt of the request for review, the public body shall provide copies of records requested and shall otherwise fully cooperate with the Public Access Counselor.”

= = = = =

Further, neither the County’ s response to the FOIA request nor its response to this office provides a detailed factual basis from which this office could conclude that the notes fall within the scope of the section 7(1)( f) exemption.

Unlike a rough draft used in the process of preparing for a speech, it is unclear how a document used to deliver the final, public version of a speech constitutes a preliminary draft or predecisional and deliberative material.

Because it cannot be determined from the information furnished by the County whether the document constitutes a preliminary draft or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are formulated, this office concludes that the County has not sustained its burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the document is exempt from disclosure pursuant to section 7(1)( f) of FOIA.

In accordance with the determinations expressed in this letter, we request that the County disclose the document to Mr. Skinner.

The Public Access Counselor has determined that resolution of this matter does not require the issuance of a binding opinion.

This letter serves to close this matter.

If you have any questions, please contact me at ( 312) 793- 0865 or the Chicago address on the first page of this letter.

Very truly yours,

MARIE HOLLISTER
Assistant Attorney General
Public Access Bureau

45451 f 2c improper 71f improper county

McConchie Tries to Overturn Court’s Order to Pay Legislators

A press release from State Senator Dan McConchie:

McConchie sponsors legislation following court ruling on legislator pay

Springfield, IL… In response to the recent court ruling authorizing the prioritization of state legislators’ pay over other outstanding obligations, State Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) immediately filed an amendment to Senate Bill 0989 that would allow greater discretion when issuing salary payments for members of the General Assembly.

McConchie said this would allow Illinois’ other fiscal obligations to be prioritized over legislators’ and Executive Branch officers’ pay.

Dan McConchie

“There is no reason why the court should force legislator pay to be prioritized over the hundreds of vendors, providers and agencies who have been waiting months for reimbursement from the state,” said Sen. McConchie.

“This bill seeks to right that wrong and allows the state’s interests and well-being to be placed ahead of legislators.”

Last spring, former Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger opted to place legislators’ paychecks in line with the other overdue bills, as the state struggled to meet its obligations due to the ongoing budget impasse. In December, a lawsuit was filed by six legislators, arguing for their legislative pay to be prioritized ahead of hospitals, human services organizations and universities that are also waiting for payments from the state.

Today, the Cook County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the six legislators, citing Illinois law, which provides a continuing appropriation for legislative salaries. In response, Sen. McConchie’s bill amendment seeks to specifically authorize the Comptroller to delay salary payments to legislators and Executive Branch Constitutional Officers.

Under this proposed legislation, the monthly salary payment to legislators may be delayed if there are insufficient funds in the state’s General Revenue Fund to pay all other obligations within 90 days after a voucher requesting payment is submitted to the Comptroller.

“This is a common sense proposal. Legislators who are failing to pass a balanced budget should not have their pay be put in front of the line over that state’s most vulnerable,” said McConchie.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Rauner on Chicago School Pension Bailout

A press release from Governor Bruce Rauner:

Rauner Urges Swift Action on State-City Pension Deal as House GOP Readies Its Votes

CHICAGO – Following the announcement that House Republicans are prepared to put the requisite number of votes on an historic state-city pension reform deal, Governor Bruce Rauner once again called on the General Assembly to swiftly pass the legislation that would save taxpayers around the state billions of dollars, address an urgent request from the City of Chicago and help move Illinois forward.

The legislation, sponsored by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and 25 other House Republicans, is a companion to legislation filed last week in the Senate by Senator Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) and Senator Jil Tracy (R-Quincy).

The Senate legislation has already won support from Republican senators who previously opposed pension reform as part of a larger and controversial unbalanced budget package, suggesting the legislation could easily pass both chambers and come to the governor’s desk for signature.

“Taxpayers around the state will save billions by making structural changes to our state pension system, and we can afford to help students and teachers in Chicago Public Schools who are facing an immediate budget crisis,” Governor Rauner said.

“The people of Illinois want compromise.  This proposal is a win-win for everyone.  It’s time to get something done.”

The proposed state-city pension reform legislation would satisfy an agreement made by legislative leaders last June that if the General Assembly passed statewide pension reform, the state would pay the teacher pension costs of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for one year.

That agreement fell through late last year when the Senate President broke the deal and the governor vetoed Chicago’s one-year assistance (SB 2822).

This proposal links the same CPS one-year pension pick-up to statewide pension reform filed by the Senate President earlier this month (SB 16).

The statewide pension reform includes President Cullerton’s consideration model for all state pension systems, a new Tier 3 hybrid defined-benefit/defined-contribution plan and other budget-saving items.

In total the package is expected to save taxpayers between $1-2 billion per year.

The package would win bipartisan support considering that SB 16 came within four votes of passage and SB 2822 passed both chambers of the General Assembly last summer as part of an agreement.

“If Chicago is asking for assistance from the state, we need to find a way to help the state save money and justify that assistance – otherwise it’s just a bailout,” Secretary of Education Beth Purvis said.

“These bills are good for taxpayers, reduce our pension liabilities and keep kids in school.”

Purvis noted that despite decreasing enrollment, Chicago Public Schools is already receiving a $74 million increase in education funding from the state this year on top of its roughly $250 million special block grant that no other school district receives.

The city’s request is for an additional $215 million on top of the $324 million it already receives.

This pension proposal was one of two paths the Rauner Administration suggested to help CPS close its budget deficit.

The other would authorize the Mayor of Chicago to use $215 million in funds from Tax Increment Financing Districts.

Man Robbed and Beaten in CL’s Coventry Subdivision Last Saturday

A press release from the Crystal Lake Police Department:

Male Victim of Robbery in Crystal Lake – Suspects in Custody

Lawrrence Liss

On Saturday March 11th, 2017, at approximately 4:05 AM, Crystal Lake Police Officers responded to the 400-430 block of Berkshire Drive for a report of a medical assist to a battered male.

Upon arrival, officers discovered an adult male who had sustained significant non-life threatening facial injuries requiring transport by ambulance to an area hospital for further treatment.

An investigation into this matter immediately ensued by detectives of the Crystal Lake Police Department discovering the victim had been beaten and robbed by multiple offenders.

Caneron Dryer

It was learned through the investigation that the victim and offenders had randomly met at a local establishment during the evening of March 10th, 2017.

Throughout the evening, the offenders gained the trust of the victim and at approximately 3:55 AM on March 11th, 2017, while acting together, all three offenders repeatedly punched and kicked the victim, taking possession of the victim’s personal property, including United States Currency.

The offenders then fled the area by means of a vehicle with the stolen property, prior to the arrival of police.

Angel Albers

Detectives initially developed and positively identified two suspects.

Further investigation revealed involvement and the positive identification of the third suspect.

Arrest warrants were subsequently obtained for all three suspects.

By Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, all suspects were arrested and in the custody of the Crystal Lake Police Department.

Arrested were

  1. Lawrence W. Liss (28) of 2800 W Russet Road, McHenry
  2. Cameron J. Dreyer (30) of 250 S. Lincoln Avenue Apt 1A, Carpentersville
  3. Angel D. Albers (42) of 1507 N. Riverside Drive, McHenry

Each suspect was charged with

  • one count of Robbery 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/18-1(a
  • a class 2 felony
  • two counts of Aggravated Battery 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/12-3.05(a)(1)
  • a class 3 felony and one count of Mob Action 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/25-1(a)(1)
  • a class 4 felony.

Liss, Dreyer and Albers were transferred to the McHenry County Jail, where they were detained. Bond is set at $50,000 each.

Batnick-Skillicorn-McSweeney Introduce Bill to Allow Comptroller to Withhold Legislative Pay

A press release from State Representatives Mark Blatnick and Allen Skillicorn:

Batinick, Skillicorn file legislation to give Comptroller greater discretion following court ruling on legislator pay

SPRINGFIELD – In response to the recent court ruling authorizing the prioritization of state legislators’ pay over other outstanding obligations, State Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) filed legislation today, House Bill 4026, to give the Comptroller greater discretion when issuing salary payments for members of the General Assembly.

Mark Blatnick

Batinick said this would allow the Comptroller to prioritize Illinois’ other fiscal obligations over legislators’ and Executive Branch officers’ pay.

House Bill 4026 is co-sponsored by Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) and David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills). The bill follows the introduction of similar legislation filed in the State Senate by Senator Dan McConchie, SB 989.

“There is no reason why we as legislators should be prioritized over the hundreds of vendors, social service providers and agencies who have been waiting months for payment from the state,” said Rep. Batinick.

“This bill seeks to right that wrong by allowing the Comptroller to place the interests of vulnerable children, seniors and families ahead of legislators.”

“Yesterday’s ruling showed a major flaw in Illinois law,” said Rep. Skillicorn, Chief Co-Sponsor of the legislation.

“We need to amend the law immediately to put taxpayers and social services before legislators who refuse to pass a budget with any cuts.

“The fact is, if the political will to make tough choices existed, we could pass a constitutionally required balanced budget in a few days.”

Last spring, former Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger opted to place legislators’ paychecks in line with the other overdue bills, as the state struggled to meet its obligations due to the ongoing budget impasse.

In December, a lawsuit was filed by six legislators [Democrats], arguing for their legislative pay to be prioritized ahead of hospitals, human services organizations and universities that are also waiting for payments from the state.

Thursday, the Cook County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the six legislators, citing Illinois law, which provides a continuing appropriation for legislative salaries. In response, Rep. Batinick’s bill seeks to specifically authorize the Comptroller to delay salary payments to legislators and Executive Branch Constitutional Officers.

Under this proposed legislation, the monthly salary payment to legislators may be delayed if there are insufficient funds in the state’s General Revenue Fund to pay all other obligations within 90 days after a voucher requesting payment is submitted to the Comptroller.

Lakewood Road Program Starts Day Before the Election

A press release from the Village of Lakewood:

2017 Road Improvement Project to Begin April 3

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently awarded the bid for the Village’s 2017 Road Improvement Project to Plote Construction, who is expected to begin as early as April 3, 2017.

The project will include the resurfacing of the roadways listed below. In addition, pavement
markings will be used to delineate 5’ bike lanes and 11’ travel lanes along Lake Avenue.

  • Lake Avenue Huntley Road to East Village Limits
  • Pheasant Drive Bard Road to Bardwell Lane
  • Wiltshire Lane S. Shore Dr. to Broadway Ave.
  • Warwick Lane S. Shore Dr. to Lake Ave.
  • Cumberland Lane Lake Ave. to Broadway Ave.
  • Oxford Lane Lake Ave. to Broadway Ave.
  • Essex Lane Lake Ave. to Broadway Ave.

The total cost for the project is expected to be $630,476.69.

The Lake Avenue portion of the project is 80% funded through Federal Surface Transportation Program funds. This leaves 20% of Lake Avenue portion and 100% of the remaining roadways to be funded locally.

Throughout the project, the roadways will remain open to two-way traffic, by using flaggers to guide traffic through the construction zone. However, there will be short periods of time when access to and from properties located adjacent to the construction site will be limited. The Village, contractor, and/or the Village’s engineering consultant will make every effort to provide notice prior to these access restrictions.

Construction signage may be placed in front of homes. Please note, however, these signs will be placed within the public right of way. Per the Village’s Municipal Code, working hours are
permitted from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Monday through Saturday) and 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on
Sunday.

For regular status updates throughout the project or for further information, please visit the Construction Projects page of the Village’s website, village.lakewood.il.us. Any additional
questions or concerns can be directed to Interim Village Manager Shannon Andrews at (815)
459-3025.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Franks Loses Second Freedom of Information Request Denial Appeal

Oliver Serafini’s McHenry County employee identification card showing he works for the Department of Transportation as well as for the County Board Chairman.

Bridgett Geenen’s McHenry County employee identification card.

For the second time since he has taken office as McHenry County Board Chairman, a Jack Franks’ denial of a Freedom of Information request from McHenry County Blog has been overturned.

The first sentence of the latest missive from the Illinois Attorney General is

“For the reasons that follow, the Public Access Bureau concludes that the response by McHenry County (County) to Mr. Cal Skinner’s FOIA request violated FOIA. “

The first was when Franks’ FOIA Officer refused to provide photos of his patronage hires Bridget Geenen and Oliver Serafini.

For some reason, after the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Division ruled that such photos should be provided, the County provided black and white copies of their employment badges–more than was requested.

The most recent reversal of a FOIA request seemed simple enough.

Requested was a copy of the text of the speech through whose pages he flipped during his first speech to the County Board.

It was a draft copy the County argued.

It was not in the possession of County government was a second excuse.

Although the County refused to supply a copy of the speech, the reply “asserted that the final version of this document is the recording of the speech that is available on the County’ s website.”

The ruling stated,

The ability of this office to conduct a full review of whether or not the notes are exempt from disclosure pursuant to section 7( 1)( f) is limited by the County’ s failure to provide a copy of the notes for this office’ s confidential review as expressly required by section 9. 5( c) of FOIA ( 5 ILCS 140/ 9. 5( c) ( West 2014)).

In particular, this office is unable to compare how consistent the notes are with the recording ofthe comments that the chairman made at the County Board meeting.

Further, neither the County’ s response to the FOIA request nor its response to this office provides a detailed factual basis from which this office could conclude that the notes fall within the scope of the section 7( 1)( f) exemption.

Unlike a rough draft used in the process of preparing for a speech, it is unclear how a document used to deliver the final, public version of a speech constitutes a preliminary draft or predecisional and deliberative material.

Because it cannot be determined from the information furnished by the County whether the document constitutes a preliminary draft or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are formulated, this office concludes that the County has not sustained its burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the document is exempt from disclosure pursuant to section 7( 1)( f) of FOIA. In accordance with the determinations expressed in this letter, we request that the County disclose the document to Mr. Skinner. [Emphasis added.]

The Public Access Counselor has determined that resolution of this matter does not require the issuance of a binding opinion.

This letter serves to close this matter.

= = = = =
The complete text of the ruling will be published this weekend.

The Gong Show and Governor Jim Thompson

Chuck Barris, originator of the Dating Game and Gong Show, among many others, just died.

That brought to mind that somehow Governor Jim Thompson is connected in my mind with the Gong Show.

I can’t remember the occasion, but he put a video of the Gong Show in some time capsule.

Go figure.

The internet puts his name in articles with the Gong Show in 1977.

Maybe it was a time capsule when some remodeling of the State Capitol was finished.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Of Weasels, Chickens and County Government

These comments were made to the McHenry County Board on Tuesday night by Pat Kennedy on behalf of Diane Evertsen, who is running for the McHenry County College Board with David Schenk  and who was attending a candidates’ night:

Pat Kennedy

It seems to me that sometimes we can get our point across more readily by incorporating it into a story … similar to Aesop’s fables.

Or, possibly, our own version of a Prairie Home Companion and Lake Woebegone.

Conversely, we can look at this the same way we looked at the grade school math problems that started out,

“If a train leaves Boston westbound at 7:00 am, traveling 80 miles per hour, and another train leaves San Francisco eastbound at 9:30 am, traveling 65 miles per hour, at what point and at what time will they pass?”

Didn’t all of us just love those kinds of questions?

Diane Evertsen

Well, so get ready to do the math.

As some of you know, we have chickens.

Our hens are relatively quiet, well-behaved and mild-mannered chickens, and certainly not well traveled or cosmopolitan.

There’s no doubt, of course, that all of them think they’re pretty smart – – – but some of us know better.

So, the other morning it was unusual to hear quite a commotion coming from the chicken coop and we had to go out to investigate.

Well, quite a surprise to find 3 dead chickens, several maimed, and one small weasel wreaking havoc.

Didn’t take us long to take care of the weasel problem, but it was notable that one weasel terrorized 80 chickens.

So, here’s the math problem:

If we could resolve our problem with one weasel within 24-hours, how long should it take 23 chickens to resolve their problem with two weasels?

When you get the answer, give me a call!

Wonder If the NW Herald Got Misled by Jack Franks’ Patronage “Communications Specialist”

Took a look through a Freedom of Information request with what Jack Franks’ “Communications Specialist” got from the State Treasurer’s Office that led to the Northwest Herald’s February 24th story that, what, $134,000 of county money was lying unclaimed in Springfield.

Forwarded the information to our County Treasurer, Glenda Miller, and this was her reply:

Glenda Miller

As for the I-Cash monies…most if not all of these funds are unclaimed funds that were submitted to the State by County Offices per the Unclaimed Property Annual Filing requirements.

For instances, my office submits unclaimed

  • r/e [real estate] refunds
  • jurors
  • disbursing
  • Deposit of Order of Court, and
  • Condemnation that are 7 years or prior

They are not County monies.

Isn’t there some aphorism that advises something that sounds too good to be true probably is?

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Realtor Terry Pounds Comments Negatively on McHenry Township Assessments

Realtor Terry Pounds offered the following commentary on a property tax relief bill that State Rep. David McSweeney has introduced Saturday:

House Bill 358 permanently freezes property tax rates in Illinois for all units of government beginning in tax year 2017.

I think this would be a step in the right direction however, there is still many steps to fix the financial death spiral Illinois is currently facing.

Myself I am terrified of my tax assessor.

I live in the McHenry township under the Mary Mahady regime and she actually told me that most people in McHenry County are UNDER assessed although we are the highest taxed county in the country just about.

At a point I thought that if I were to fight my property taxes and get them to about where the should be in accordance to the Illinois Statutes

(I am not saying the property taxes are at a reasonable range by any means! I am saying as what they should not be in accordance to Illinois Law.)

I have fought my taxes every year for the last 6 years and every time the assessor throws in extra compatibles that have very different features than mine including some of them being 70 to 80 year newer than mine.

Not only is it bad enough that our taxes are higher than they should be, they are not even fair about the amount they assess them.

My name is Terry Pounds and I am a local Realtor in the McHenry County Area and I am seeing many properties listed at low prices because the property taxes are $10k to $14k.

The homes range in conditions but the properties sit there stagnant as no one can qualify for a loan to buy the homes as the banks only lend on the actual value of the homes.

The the property tax payment per month many times exceeds the mortgage value by over 50 percent or more and this is completely insane.

I don’t know about you guys but I have lost my sense of home ownership and I currently pay over $1000.00 a month to live in my home and that is just the property taxes alone.

Furthermore, people are afraid to buy the home as they are actually afraid of the tax bill that comes with the property and the hell or fire that the local tax assessor may rain down on them once they buy the home.

There is no guarantee that tax assessor would lower the assessed value even is they bought it for a price less than the assessed value.

If you are currently thinking of fighting your property taxes please contact me and I would be happy to run a free market analysis on your homes.

I will give you a free consultation of what steps you could take to bring some relief to your tax bill.

Or if you just had enough and you are thinking of moving out of Illinois like tens of thousands of others Illinois residents are planning or doing, I can assist you with that as well.

Pounds also made the following conclusions about McHenry Township Assessor Mary Malady.  (She is on the ballot unopposed in the April 4th election.)

Mary MaHady is doing a terrible job assessing property values in McHenry Township.

There are many residents leaving Illinois due to her regime’s poorly ran office and inflated assessed values.

Homes values are plumitting under her regime due to over assessed out of range taxes.

Assessments in McHenry Township in 2014 had a margin of error of 21.5%.

See http://mchenrycountyblog.com/2017/02/13/assessment-quality-in-mchenry-county/

I have explained what that means in the article, but let me make on observation here.

The results for the 2015 year’s assessments (taxes collected in 2016) can be found in this article:

Assessment Quality in McHenry County After the Last Township Election

In McHenry Township half of the assessments are more than or less than 21.5% off where they should be.

The other half are between 7.2 percentage points lower than the mandated level of 33.3% of market value and 7.2 percentage points higher than one-third of market value.

Do the addition and the subtraction and you will see how unevenly homes are assessed in McHenry Township.

McHenry Township’s assessments are assessed slightly more uniformly, but still have a margin of error of over 20%.

Taxpayer Candidates for McHenry Grade School Board Holding Corkscrew Pointe Fundraiser Thursday Night

Jan Reimann, Hugo Mercado, Janet Szmkowiak, Kevin McConville , Erik Sivertsen and Mark Jaeger are running together to break the teacher union lock on the District 15 Board.

An announcement about a fundraiser Thursday night for the team of candidates seeking to lower McHenry Grade School District 15 taxes:

“We want to lower your taxes vote the lower half of the candidates (appearing third and forth on the ballot for two year term and the final four for the four year term).

“We want to lower your taxes vote the lower half of the candidates (appearing third and forth on the ballot for two year term and the final four for the four year term)

“Meet the candidates that want to improve the educational outcomes of district 15 students, at a reduced cost to the tax payers of the district.

“The citizens of McHenry are demanding accountability from their taxing bodies, district 15 is responsible for half of your property tax bill.

“The current board of education continues to spend money while only 38% of our students (according to the Illinois State board of education) are fully prepared for the next grade level.

“These candidates do not have a conflict of interest like most of the current board does, our candidates are small business owners not education bureaucrats.

Corkscrew Pointe on the map.

“You have a choice, improve the educational out comes for our children (under the current board only 51% of the tax money makes its way to the classroom), while reducing taxes and improving the quality of life for the citizens of the district.”

When: Thursday March 23rd, 6-9pm
Where: Corkscrew Pointe, 1402 N Riverside Dr. McHenry
Who: Riemann, Szymkowiak, Sivertsen, Mercado, McConville, Jaeger.

District 155 Announces 13 Layoffs

Thirteen teachers were “honorably dismissed” as of the end of the 2016-2017 school year by the Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board of Education on Tuesday night

Crystal Lake High School District 155 Board

Declining enrollment is the reason.

The cuts will have least affect on Crystal Lake South High School.   Only a part-time art teacher is being let go there.

Cary-Grove High School is seeing two laid off, a PE/Health teacher, an English and a Social Science teacher.

Prairie Ridge High School, there will be a part-time social science and full-time math and science teachers who will lose their jobs.

Finally, at Crystal Lake Central High School, a PE/health teacher, a part-time science teacher, a math teacher, a world language teacher and a full-time science teacher will be laid off.

The teachers losing their jobs are

  • Rebecca Adam (Crystal Lake Central High School PE/Health Teacher)
  • David Hartl (Part-time Cary-Grove High School PE/Health Teacher)
  • Laurie Koeppen (Part-time Crystal Lake Central High School Science Teacher)
  • Lauren Krumholz (Not showing on Crystal Lake Central High School’s staff directory, but other internet links indicate that she is a Math Teacher)
  • Alissa Mogavero (Part-time Crystal Lake Central High School World Language Teacher)
  • Benjamin Reiff (Cary-Grove High School Social Science Teacher)
  • Leah Rutkowski (Crystal Lake Central High School Science Teacher)
  • Karyl Shields (Part-time South High School Art Teacher)
  • Jordan Smith (Prairie Ridge High School Science Teacher)
  • Rachel Spolum (Part-time Prairie Ridge High School Social Science Teacher)
  • William Stastny (Prairie Ridge High School English Teacher)
  • Paige Stickle (Cary-Grove High School English Teacher)
  • Kristie Tyler (Prairie Ridge High School Mathematics Teacher)

In addition, Raymond “Corky” Card’s full-time position at Prairie Redge as a PE/health teacher was changed to a part-time job for the next school year.

Earlier this month the McHenry County College Board laid off 19 employees due to declining enrollment.