$78,299.96 to be exact.
That’s what it will cost taxpayers because former McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren refused to provide information that a decision of the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Division said he should make available under the Freedom of Information Act.
That’s the legal fees and court costs awarded by Judge Thomas Meyer to First Electric Newspaper attorney Mary Gardner Thursday for her successful effort to pry significant parts of a report about Nygren’s exoneration of Undersheriff Andy Zinke’s sharing information coming from the Drug Enforcement Agency about an ongoing probe.
But, that’s probably not all.
“We prevailed on the issue that there was a waiver because Zinke showed it to the Northwest Herald in his capacity as his (Nygren’s) top flunky,” First Electric Newpaper’s Publisher Pete Gonigam said after the decision was rendered.
Gonigam revealed that he will appeal a previous decision of Meyer that “an adjudication is a decision.”
He “ruled that whatever the Sheriff did constituted an adjudication.
“We’re going to appeal that because it makes a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act.”
Such an appeal will delay the payment to Gardner.
The first appeal, which Gardner won, cost the County over $10,000.
It resulted in the release of previously public documents, such as a press release from State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi.
A second appeal appeal by Gonigam would probably result in a counter appeal from the Sheriff’s Office, First Assistant State’s Attorney Norm Vinton said.
Gardner thought that such an appeal could add substantially to legal fees, if she were successful.
“I can’t imagine it’ll be less than $25,000,” she said, noting, “They already lost one appeal.”
“I can only imagine they would appeal the fees,” she continued.
During his explanation of the fee reduction from about $98,000 to $78.000, Judge Meyer said he didn’t want to punish the Sheriff’s Department and mentioned the county not in good financial shape.
While Gardner request she be paid her customary rate of $285 per hour, the rate regular clients compensate her monthly, Meyer knocked it down to $250 per hour.
He denied out-of-pocket costs and court costs, but after Gardner pointed out reimbursement for court filing fees was specified in the statute, Meyer added the $1,062.40.
The Judge did decry the political overtones of the case.
“It was unfortunate that an extraneous political [factor held up the case].”
The politics, he said resulted in a “waste of time.”