Attorney General Rules McHenry County Blog “News Media” for Purposes of Freedom of Information Requests

The Public Access Division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has ruled that McHenry County Blog is to be considered “media” under the Freedom of Information Act.

McHenry County Blog is now the only blog in Illinois certified as a “news medium” by the Illinois Attorney General.

Three similar appeals have previously failed.

In doing so, it ruled that McHenry County had violated the Freedom of Information Act.

“… the Public Access Bureau concludes that the County of McHenry (County) improperly designated Mr. Cal Skinner as a recurrent requester,” said the opinion (2017 PAC 46249).

McHenry County Blog appealed.he question arose because McHenry County’s Freedom of Information Officer–after Democrat Jack Franks took office as McHenry County Board Chairmandesignated McHenry County Blog as “a recurrent requester.”

McHenry County Blog appealed.

Jack Franks

In the response to my request for texts between Franks and patronage employee “Communications Specialist” Oliver Serafini (which, when an answer was finally provided were said to be non-existent), the County contended McHenry County was a “recurrent requester,” as defined in the FOIA as follows:

A “recurrent requester” is defined in Section 2(g) of the Act as a person that, in the 12 months immediately preceding the request, has submitted to the same public body

(i) a minimum of 50 requests for records,

(ii) a minimum of 15 requests for records within a 30-day period, or

(iii) a minimum of 7 requests for records within a 7-day period.

The Attorney General “requested that [McHenry County] provide a detailed explanation of the legal and factual bases for designating Mr. Skinner as a ‘recurrent requester.'”

The County replied, citing three non-binding opinions.

The opinion notes the law says members of the media cannot be designated as “recurrent requesters”:

For purposes of this definition, requests made by news media and non-profit, scientific, or academic organizations shall not be considered in calculating the number of requests made in the time periods in this definition when the principal purpose of the requests is (i) to access and disseminate information concerning news and current or passing events, ( ii) for articles of opinion or features of interest to the public, or ( iii) for the purpose of academic, scientific, or public research or education. (Emphasis added.)

McHenry County Blog submitted legal arguments and an affidavit relating to the history and operation of McHenry County Blog.

McHenry County argued,

McHenry County has no evidence that Mr. Skinner * * * adheres to recognized journalistic standards.

While the posts may include the personal commentary or editorial of the blog’ s publisher, this opinion -based content is not analogous to the reporting with editorial oversight and fact checking that hallmark traditional news sources.

Therefore, Mr. Skinner’s website does not resemble a newspaper,” “periodical,”or ” news service” in an electronic form and does not fall within the plain definition of “news media” in section 2( f) of FOIA.

Parts of the affidavit which rebutted county government’s assertion are then cited in the opinion, followed by

This office has also independently reviewed the McHenry County Blog website during the pendency of this Request for Review.

The McHenry County Blog is regularly updated with posts on governmental issues in McHenry County and elsewhere.

The site often includes original content consisting of Mr. Skinner’ s opinion and commentary on these issues.

The opinion concludes,

Mr. Skinner has furnished evidence that the McHenry County Blog functions much like a member of the traditional news media in terms of

  • its production of original content,
  • its range of reporting on issues of public interest,
  • its established presence on its own and in the traditional media, and
  • the size and diversity of its readership. [format changed]

Judging from the totality of the circumstances, this office concludes that the McHenry County Blog is a newspaper or periodical issued at regular intervals in “electronic format” and, therefore, a member of the ” news media” as defined by section 2( f) of FOIA.

Accordingly, based on the available evidence, the County violated FOIA by improperly designating Mr. Skinner as a “recurrent requester” under section 2( g) of FOIA.

In accordance with the conclusions of this letter, this office requests that the County treat Mr. Skinner’s FOIA request as being from “news media.”


Attorney General Rules McHenry County Blog “News Media” for Purposes of Freedom of Information Requests — 55 Comments

  1. That was no easy task in this Liberal state!


    Another defeat for the “round mound”.

  2. Congrats Cal!

    Do you plan to send a press release to the Northwest Herald?

  3. Congratulations Cal!

    You are a warrior for the ‘little guy’.

  4. Thank you, Cal, for standing up to the system.


  5. The sunshine blog making us proud. Our sunshine blogger, a champion of guns and ugly felines. Compassionate conservative commenters, champions of nonsense. 2018, are you here yet? Tic tock, tic tock…

  6. Part of the main stream media should mean some FAIR AND BALANCED reporting on what is happening at the county board right?
    NHW had a decent piece on talks at the County Board about cutting property taxes 10%, will that be duplicated here eventually?
    From reading that story it appears Andrew and Jack are leading the charge to cut our county property tax bill by 10%, while Donna and a few others are stones in the road to what so many tax payer really want, property tax relief.
    Surely the readers on this blog would love to hear more on efforts to reduce taxation even if it’s not large $$$$ off our tax bills!

  7. Not to throw cold water on Cal’s victory, but the opinion was “non-binding”.

    Therefore, the question now becomes will the County recant its burdensome and ridiculous “recurrent requester” designation.

    Otherwise, the only way to enforce the PAC’s finding would be an expensive lawsuit.

  8. Where is the proposed plan from Mr. Gasser and Mr. Franks?


    Where is the “plan” to cut property taxes by 10% that Jack Franks pitched while campaigning for County Board Chair?

    Mr. Franks has not released the plan.

    Now Mr. Franks is advocating the county board pass a resolution to cut property taxes 10% without a plan?

    How irresponsible is that?

    Then the county board, and not Jack Franks, takes the blame from special interests for any cuts of which the special interests don’t approve?


    During his six month 2016 campaign for the inaugural voter elected County Board Chair, the following was on the Jack Franks website:

    “McHenry County has a higher property tax level than 99% of the counties in America.

    We also pay a higher percentage of our income in property taxes than residents of 99% of the counties in America.

    Enough is enough.

    I’m running for McHenry County Board Chairman to cut property taxes levy by 10% across the board.

    This means a 10% property tax levy reduction from EVERY government body in our county.

    We can finally give relief to local property taxpayers if we eliminate government waste and fraud and more efficiently manage tax dollars.

    Join me in sending a message to McHenry County leaders in support of this 10% cut.

    And know that I will introduce this plan on my first day as your McHenry County Board Chairman.

    – Jack Franks”


    Jack Franks’ first day as McHenry County Board Chairman was December 5, 2017.

    On December 5, 2017, Jack Franks did not introduce his plan to cut property taxes 10% for the county or any other property taxing district.

    Today is April 17, 2017, and Jack Franks has been in office four months, and still has not introduced a plan.

    The taxpayers took the bait and voted Jack Franks into office.


    This latest rendition is just another Jack Franks gimmick.

    If it passes, and the cuts materialize, the County Board takes the fall from any special interest groups who don’t like the cuts, because Jack Franks is not a voting member of the board.

    If it passes, and the cuts do not materialize, the County Board gets blamed by Jack Franks for not following through.

    If it doesn’t pass, the County board gets blamed by Jack Franks for not agreeing to cut property taxes by 10%.


    Hold Jack Franks’ feet to the fire.

    He promised a plan.

    Request that Jack Franks follow through and deliver his proposed plan to cut property taxes 10%.

    The County board can do likewise.

    Then the public can view the plans.

    And weigh in on the plans.


    Where’s the plan?

  9. Northwest Herald

    McHenry County Board Debates Ordinance to Slash Tax Levy by 10 Percent

    by Kevin Craver

    April 14, 2017

    “If approved Tuesday [April 18, 2017] evening, the resolution would be a promise in writing to property owners to cut at least $7.9 million in taxation and spending, based on its $79.3 million tax levy for this year.

    It also will create an ad-hoc Committee on Tax Reduction, consisting of just less than half of the entire board, to develop ways to meet the goal by a June 30, 2017 deadline.”


    Another Jack Franks Ad hoc committee.

    Who appoints members to the ad hoc committee?

    Has an ad hoc committee been necessary in the past to negotiate county budgets?

    Why exclude half of the county board from such negotiations?

    What are the advantages to Jack Franks of forming ad hoc committees.



    Is this part of the cut 10 “plan” Jack Franks never released?

    Forming an ad hoc committee to cut county property taxes 10, four months after elected into office??

  10. Moderate is closely associated with the Jack Franks political campaign, as identified by Mike Walkup during the campaign.

    Where is the Cut 10 plan?

    The Cut 10 plan is not in the Northwest Herald article.

  11. Northwest Herald

    Resolution to Cut McHenry County Board Levy by 10 Percent Makes Progress

    by Kevin Craver

    April 11, 2017

    “An addition by Franks, which is in the version approved by Finance and Audit, creates a Committee on Tax Reduction to work with county administration to develop tax reduction proposals no later than June 30.

    The 12-member committee consists of Franks, the chairmen of each standing committee, and three other members, with Skala acting as vice chairman.”


    Who would be Chairman of the ad hoc committee? – Jack Franks?

    Who chose Mike Skala as Vice-Chairman? – Jack Franks?

    Who chooses the other 3 members of the ad hoc committee – Jack Franks?

    Is Jack Franks a voting member of the ad hoc committee?


    Is this the extent of the “cut 10” plan that Jack Franks said he would introduce on his first day as McHenry County Board Chairman?

    Creating an ad hoc committee of 1/2 of the county board, with Jack Franks as chair of the ad hoc committee (would Jack Franks be a voting member of the ad hoc committee?) to recommend cuts to the full county board?

    It took four months to release that “plan”?

    And the “plan” for other property taxing districts, is for Jack Franks to use the county board chair as a bully pulpit to somehow encourage, for example, school districts to cut their property taxes by 10%?

    Even though the tax cutting candidates were not victorious in Woodstock District 200, Crystal Lake High School District, and some other school districts in McHenry County?

  12. Andrew is forcing the issue, it’s kind of a shame ya’ll aren’t openly supporting the issue.
    Love ya Cindy.

  13. Mike Walkup doesn’t know who I am, neither do you.

    I’m not associated with a campaign.

    I’ve repeatedly stated that, yet Mark the Liar continues to state the opposite.

    There’s an article in the Herald today.

    If Cal is now going to be considered a legitimate media source, then he ought to moderate lies.

    Mark asks, “What’s the plan,” then posts that Franks has created a committee on tax reduction to work with the county to decrease taxes with a deadline of June 30th.

    Mark clearly has ZERO political experience because he would know that in order to pass the cut ten plan, Franks needs ownership. If Franks is going to create ownership, then he needs buyin from the majority of the board. Buy in is best created if there is input from the board itself. SO, the best way to pass a 10% decrease in taxes is through bi-partisanship.

    Mark is a partisan.
    Mark and Cal both want Franks to fail.
    The narrowest path to failure is Franks to try and jam cut 10 down the board’s throat without buy in.
    Mark and Cal want Franks to do just that.
    Mark and Cal alternatively assert that Franks coordinating with the board is Franks using a bully pulpit.
    Damned if he doesn’t, Damned if he does.

    That’s how Cal and Mark like it.

  14. Seems as if Jack Franks and Andrew Gasser are are aligned on the of forming the ad hoc committee and passing the cut 10 resolution.

    Has even a rudimentary analysis been attempted?

    If so, where is it?

    What is county share in the upcoming budgets for the Route 23 / I-90 interchange in Marengo.

    How much is the IMRF pension and retiree healthcare underfunded, what are the projections to bring them to 100% funded?

    Or, what is the plan to scale back hiked benefits to underfunded pensions and retiree healthchare (an almost impossible task at this point)?


    The pensions are the big issue in Illinois in general and why cut 10 is impossible for some property taxing districts in McHenry County, if pensions are to be paid in full, and if some property taxes are not shifted to income taxes (there are all sorts of ifs).

    The reason is the underfunded liability grows every day the pensions are underfunded, assuming actuarial projections are met.

    That’s because taxpayers make up 100% of the difference in lost returns to underfunded pensions (there is zero return on money not present).

    The following assumed rates are pretty recent, they may have changed:

    The current IMRF assumed rate of return (discount rate) is 7.5%.

    The current Downstate Police and Downstate Fire assumed rate of return (discount rate) is 6.75%.

    The current TRS assumed rate of return (discount rate) is 7%.

    Not to mention, there are many assumptions that go into actuarial projections; the actuaries have various methods and wiggle room they can play with; and the actuaries are tempted to please their client so the customer does not switch to another actuary.

    A lot of police and fire are under the false impression if the employer makes 100% of the annual actuarial required contribution, the pension is fully funded

    That is not true.

    A lot of the public is under the false assumption the police and fire were promised these benefits on day 1 of their job.

    That is not true.

    Those in the Chicago area in suburbs of 10,000 or so population or larger in Downstate Police, Downstate Fire, Chicago Police, or Chicago Fire, the salaries and benefits were hiked over their 30 year career to levels they never envisioned on day 1.

    It’s been a never ending game of hiking salaries, hiking pension benefits, shifting pension funding to salary hikes, unions contributing and assisting in political campaigns for salary and benefit hikes, etc. among the 20 or so pension “systems” in Illinois (counting Downstate Police and Downstate Fire as two of those pension systems even though in practice there is a unique fund for each participating employer).

    And so in light of that mess, the solution is to simply cut 10 with no upfront plan.

  15. Moderate was outed by Mike Walkup during the campaign at the Crystal Lake Park District flyer incident as someone close to the Jack Franks campaign.

  16. The “plan” is to create an ad hoc committee?

    Nice detailed plan.

    No wonder it wasn’t released on his first day in office.

    What a joke.

  17. Jack Franks didn’t produce is cut 10 plan on his first day in office.

    Apparently the Jack Franks “plan” is to create an ad hoc committee, four months after being in office, as opposed to revealing a real plan his first day in office, as he said he would.

    As reported in the Northwest Herald on June 6, 2014 in an article by Kevin Craver titled, “Franks Asks County For 2 Advisory Referendums,” Jack Franks said,

    “I can promise you I am not running for County Chairman in 2016.”

    Jack Franks did run for County Chairman in 2016.


    So will McHenry County lift the recurrent requester label from McHenry County blog?

  18. Are you asking me, Mark? Because I don’t know.

    I don’t work for Franks. I’m not part of his campaign. I’m not on the payroll. I don’t coordinate with the campaign. How many ways do I have to say it before it gets through to you?

    OR, are you going to keep lying about who I am because it fits your agenda?

  19. That’s all Moderate has….Mark is a liar.

    Mike Walkup outed Moderate as someone close to the Jack Franks campaign.

    Moderate is the biggest Jack Franks cheerleader on the blog.

    Moderate promotes Jack Franks.

  20. I’m Jack’s cheerleader. Sure.

    Mark has no idea who I am, therefore you are lying.

  21. The history is in the blog for everyone to read at their leisure.

    Moderate is the biggest Jack Franks cheerleader on the blog.

  22. Mark is not a liar just because he is guessing your identity. We all know you are the evil Rosa K. He is just too new to know that.

  23. Best news I’ve heard since Trump vanquished The Hildabeast to her own private Hell – BRAVO Cal !

  24. Yes Mark,
    I support Franks, cutting taxes and a bipartisan county board.

    No Mark,
    You keep lying about Mike Walkup “outing” me.

  25. I want to know why none of you are asking Joe to produce the plan to eliminate his $104,000 a year job.

    Or why none of you are concerned that Gasser will now collect 3 government checks.

    This will never be a legitimate news source if it is so heavily slanted.

  26. And I want to know why NW Herald has not reported Franks’ patronage hiring in contravention of County Salary Administration Policy.

    I want to know why commenters aren’t specifically, without political tangential diversions, concerned about the many suffering homeowners in this County losing any hope of dignified retirement due to a mean&median county property tax rate above 3.6% with national average 1.4%.

    Can’t always get what you want.

    One thing Cal’s blog did that we all owe him for, forever:

    While NWHerald printed press releases from Oakwood Hills and failed to unearth their officials’ hidden meetings with power plant suitors, Cal made citizens aware in the nick of time about a power plant project which would have the capacity to use more ground water daily than City of Crystal Lake.

    It was thwarted in large part due to this blog’s original reporting.

    Thank you Cal.

  27. Agreed Susan both the NWH AND THIS BLOG could be more FAIR AND BALANCED on reporting.

  28. Over and above our own body, spouse, and temporal possessions, we have yet another treasure, namely, honor and good report [the illustrious testimony of an upright and unsullied name and reputation], with which we cannot dispense. For it is intolerable to live among men in open shame and general contempt. Therefore God wishes the reputation, good name, and upright character of our neighbor to be taken away or diminished as little as his money and possessions, that every one may stand in his integrity before wife, children, servants, and neighbors. And in the first place, we take the plainest meaning of this commandment according to the words (Thou shalt not bear false witness), as pertaining to the public courts of justice, where a poor innocent man is accused and oppressed by false witnesses in order to be punished in his body, property, or honor.

    — Martin Luther, The Large Catechism

  29. At the same event where Mike Walkup outed Moderate as a Jack Franks supporter, guess who was present?

    Jeffery Lichte.

    Here’s another picture of the Jack Franks supporting Democrat, Jeffery Lichte, who ran as a Republican candidate against Steve Reick in the 63rd District State Representative primary election held March 15, 2016.

    That’s the election Jack Franks was unopposed as Democrat candidate for 63rd District State Representative.

    In the photo:

    – Mr. Lichte is wearing a Jack Franks campaign hat (with the infamous Jack Franks “wave”).

    – Mr. Lichte is wearing a Jack Franks campaign t shirt (with the infamous Jack Franks “wave”).

    – Mr. Lichte is photographed at the Jack Franks campaign table, with Jack Franks and his wife Debby Franks (wearing an infamous “JF” campaign sticker), at the Crystal Lake Park District’s Main Beach band concert.


    McHenry County Blog

    CL Police Doesn’t Get the Memo

    August 9, 2016


    The “JF” stickers and “Franks wave” (on a nail file) political brands were photographed by County Board Member Chuck Wheeler at the McHenry County Booth on Saturday, February 25, 2017 at the McHenry Chamber of Commerce expo.

    Jack Franks patronage hire Oliver Serafini was pictured wearing two JF stickers at the County booth.

    A roll of JF stickers was pictured sitting on the County Booth table.

    Two JF stickers were pictured affixed to a vertical backdrop portion of the County Booth.

    A nail file with the “JF” logo, “Franks wave”, and “Jack Franks McHenry County Board Chairman” was pictured.

    Mr. Wheeler stated that along with Oliver Serafini, Deputy County Administrator Scott Hartman was present at the booth.

    The McHenry County Blog article is titled, “Jack Franks Patronage Worker Caught Wearing Campaign Stickers at McHenry Expo Booth for McHenry County Government,” and is dated February 26, 2017.


    Scott Hartman is the County FOIA officer who labeled Cal Skinner a frequent requester, which occurred after Jack Franks took office as McHenry County Board Chair.

  30. Following is the comment in the blog post in which Mike Walkup explained his reasoning that Moderate was close with the Jack Franks campaign during the November 8, 2016 County Board Chair election cycle.


    McHenry County Blog

    Advice for Jack Franks

    August 13, 2016

    comment: Mike Walkup on 08/14/2016 at 1:04 pm said:


    And, Mark has not guessed the identify of Moderate.

    Mark did state that Moderate is a Jack Franks cheerleader and was identified my Mike Walkup as someone close with the Jack Franks campaign during the November 8, 2016 County Board Chair election cycle.

  31. Mark still doesn’t understand Rosa K. BTW I am the one that drives a Cadillac. NOT Rosa! LOL

  32. Great, that’s all I wanted you say Mark: you have no idea who I am.

    Also, did you really refer to yourself in the third person?? Lol

  33. Also, your evidence is that I saw Mike posting fliers and that means I’m a high level campaign member? That literally makes zero sense.

  34. Mod*er*ate average in amount,intensity,quality,or degree.
    Biggest Jack Franks bootlicker on the Blog.
    You have been outed @ LOL

  35. A group of private citizens brought the Oakwood Hills Power plant to light.

    Organized, educated, communicated.

    Cal just ran the information that was provided to him.

    Don’t act like he did any heavy lifting around reporting- you would be wrong.

    Like most things- you choose to view the facts with a slanted lens.

  36. McHenry County Blog

    Advice for Jack Franks

    August 13, 2016

    comment: Mike Walkup on 08/14/2016 at 1:04 pm said:

    “There is no way anyone not affiliated with the Franks campaign would even know about this as the flyers were not on the cars for more than five minutes.”


    The flyer incident occurred Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at a “Concerts in the Park” event at the Crystal Lake Park District, Main Beach, 300 Lake Shore Drive, Crystal Lake.

  37. Inish you are factually inaccurate.

    Without this blog to first point out that Melanie Funk had lied to mainstream press and was holding private talks with power plant, and then to cover events unfolding and disseminate the research performed by those educated organized private citizens, which led to involvement of politicians, there would have been a different outcome.

    I know this firsthand.

    Don’t remember you.

  38. Inish, idiot, Cal puts himself out there every day for the truth, much of what the Herald doesn’t cover. He IS Press. Jealous? Or are you an ex elected official that Cal covered ( when the truth came out?) LOL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *