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.

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


Franks Loses Second Freedom of Information Request Denial Appeal — 7 Comments

  1. Cal,
    does the chairman directly control how FOIA requests are processed?

  2. The Illinois Attorney General Public Access Counselor requests the County disclose the document (Jack Franks speech notes from December 5, 2016 County Board meeting) to Mr. Skinner.

    This was Jack Franks’ first speech to the county board.

  3. Does the Chairman control the County Administrator to whom the FOIA Officer reports?

  4. So there is a conspiracy wherein the Chairman is conspiring with the County Administrator and more than 50 FOIA officers to control and deny every Cal Skinner FOIA and none of them, including members of the GOP are raising so much as a peep.

    Yeah right!!!!!

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