It took months to find out.
It seemed to me reasonable to ask whether Huntley School Superintendent John Burkey was “working” on the taxpayers’ dime for his junket (for which the district paid only registration) or on an officially recognized vacation, that is, using up some of his 20 days of vacation.
I wrote this story in early September.
When I first asked, this was the result:
“Information on how specific days by District employees are accounted for is exempt from disclosure per 5ILCS 140, Section 7(b), “information that, if disclosed would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy…(emphasis added)”
So, I asked again:
That reply, I admit was infuriating:
In response to the number of vacation days taken each month in FY09 and FY10:
“Information on how specific days by District employees are accounted for is exempt from disclosure per 5ILCS 140, Section 7(b, “information, that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy…(emphasis added)”
Let me offer a reason why vacation days might be relevant. What if you were a House Republican staff member and had been told to go help a state representative under challenge by “outsider?”
If someone called up the campaign office of the incumbent on the Friday before the election and the House GOP staffer answered the phone, should you—or I, in this quite real example—as a taxpayer have the right to know whether said staffer was being paid by taxpayers or the campaign?
(I never found out, despite the so-called Ethics bill that former Governor Rod Blagojevich bragged about signing, which, supposedly significantly, required legislative staffers to fill out time sheets for every 15-minute part of the day. I sued, along with Christina Tobin, and a loophole in the law—surprise, surprise—prevented us from getting copies of the time sheets. That’s what a Cook C0unty circuit court judge ruled.)
In a new January Freedom of Information Act request filed after the new amendments went into effect, I asked again and, guess what, Huntley School District finally coughed up the information about Burkey’s China vacation.
Burkey did use vacation days.
Does that make you wonder why Burkey didn’t want to answer the question the first time I asked it?
And, now that we know the Supt. was on vacation, the next question is why the school district paid $900 for his registration fee?
“A total of $900.00 for the registration fee was paid using District 158 funds for Dr. Burkey’s trip to China. A copy of the registration invoice and board approval is enclosed.”