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Attorney general's office advises Algonquin Township to respond to Edgar County Watchdogs' FOIA request

Watchdog group will file suit if records are not provided

Attorney for Algonquin Township Jim Kelly speaks during a board meeting on Feb. 14.
Attorney for Algonquin Township Jim Kelly speaks during a board meeting on Feb. 14.

Algonquin Township was advised by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday to provide the Edgar County Watchdogs with records related to board meeting security requested under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

If the records aren’t provided, Edgar County Watchdogs founder John Kraft said a lawsuit will follow.

On March 13, Kraft submitted a FOIA request for all communications related to the presence of security or police officers at the township’s board of trustees meetings.

The request was denied in full by Algonquin Township under various sections of the Freedom of Information Act. On April 19, the attorney general’s office received Kraft’s request for the Public Access Counselor to review the FOIA request to see if a violation occurred.

The attorney general’s office requested copies of the withheld records for confidential review April 26. Algonquin Township Attorney James Kelly told an assistant attorney general he would not provide the record by asserting that doing so would waive the attorney-client privilege.

Although the assistant attorney general advised Kelly this would not be the case and the Freedom of Information Act requires full cooperation with the Public Access Bureau, a second request for review was sent to Kelly on June 5.

After the township failed to respond to two written requests for FOIA documents for confidential review, the attorney general’s office said it was unable to conclude there was clear and convincing evidence the records were exempt under FOIA.

Kraft attended Wednesday’s Algonquin Township Board meeting to inform trustees that the township did not comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

“Did you know there’s a question where your attorney refused to even provide the proper documents he was legally required under FOIA to the attorney general’s office? But he probably didn’t tell you that, but I will,” Kraft said.

Kelly said the attorney general’s determination failed to reflect the communications he’s had with that office over the past year regarding attorney-client privilege, which is an issue that has come up in other Freedom of Information Act requests.

Kelly said he is continuing to work with the attorney general’s office to resolve this situation.

This isn’t the first time the Edgar County Watchdogs have challenged Algonquin Township over the Freedom of Information Act.

In April 2018, Kraft and Kirk Allen – co-founder of the Edgar County Watchdogs – filed a public records lawsuit naming both Algonquin Township and the Algonquin Township Highway Department alleging that the governments on multiple occasions did not comply with public records law.

That October, road district attorney Robert Hanlon negotiated a settlement offering the Edgar County Watchdogs $40,000 to take the road district out of the lawsuit.

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