City bodies sometimes spend hundreds of dollars on attorneys to answer relatively simple information requests, then blame the requester for needlessly wasting taxpayer dollars, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) argue on their Illinois Leaks website.
The ECW points to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests it sent to the Village of Rosemont for copies of checks and to the Rolling Meadows Public Library for records recently. Rosemont released seven checks but also had an attorney send a letter stating that the request had been answered. The Rolling Meadows Public Library had an attorney send a letter saying that it would take five more days to produce the records.
Per the state’s FOIA statutes, all public bodies must have a FOIA compliance officer on staff to field such requests. In light of this, the ECW argues that Rosemont and the Rolling Meadows Public Library wasted approximately $200 per hour to have an attorney handle such simple requests.
The group argues that public bodies using attorneys for these types of information requests are indifferent to the costs and unwilling to deal with the requests themselves. They allege that they could be trying to cover up statute violations or wrongdoing, or want to discourage FOIA requests by having an attorney respond or insinuate that such requests put an unnecessary strain on a public body.