Attorney General looks into former Oak Lawn mayor’s FOIA request

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  For the second time in less than a month, the Illinois Attorney General has agreed to review a partially denied request for information in Oak Lawn.
  The attorney general’s Public Access Bureau on Nov. 19 asked the village to respond to allegations made by former Mayor Dave Heilmann regarding a Freedom of Information Act request he submitted on Oct. 11.
  Heilmann’s FOIA request sought copies of contracts for landscape improvements performed on property on 95th Street west of the I-294 overpass as well as copies of checks paid to contractors and emails associated with the project.
  On Oct. 21, the village provided Heilmann with a copy of the invoice and a check but denied other information that he sought, specifically a proposal for the work.
  About a week later, Heilmann asked if the contractor had submitted a proposal to the village. The village responded that no proposal had been sent. Heilmann believes a proposal does exist.
  “We have determined that further inquiry is necessary,” the attorney general wrote in a letter to Carmie O’Leary, a village freedom of information officer. “Please respond to the allegations made in Mr. Heilmann’s request for review. Specifically, please clarify whether the village possesses any additional responsive records that have not already been provided to Mr. Heilmann pursuant to his FOIA request.”
  Heilmann said the village is “selectively enforcing” the Freedom of Information Act. He said that Chad Weiler, the village’s former director of business operations, whose position was eliminated earlier this year, saw the proposal.
  “The village said there was no proposal,” Heilmann said. “I don’t know why they are hiding that. Chad (Weiler) handed it to (Village Manager) Larry (Deetjen) and it’s on our email system.”
  “There’s a very dishonest thing that was done,” Heilmann added. “It’s dishonest to residents.”
  Weiler’s position was cut as a cost-saving measure, according to Deetjen. Heilmann contends that the village should not have spent approximately $19,000 on landscaping improvement at the western entrance to the village if other cost-cutting measures were needed to help balance the budget.
  The attorney general’s Public Access Bureau on Oct. 21 asked the village to provide unredacted copies of the emails requested by Trustee Carol Quinlan.
  Quinlan on Aug. 19 submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all emails between Deetjen and village attorneys between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. The village partially denied her request, and provided Quinlan with a portion of the emails she requested.
  Quinlan initially requested all emails between Deetjen and the village attorney between Nov. 1, 2012, and June 1, 2013. The village denied the request claiming “that it was too burdensome because of the amount of emails that would have to be produced and reviewed and reviewed by attorneys,” Quinlan wrote.
  The village told Quinlan that there were 2,831 emails between Deetjen and attorneys during the seven-month period plus attachments. The village asked her to narrow the date range of her request.
  The Public Access Bureau grants most of the appeals it receives, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said. It can decide to uphold the village’s partial denial or direct it to turn over the complete records sought by Heilmann or Quinlan.