Matthew Topic (773) 368-8812
Robert Reed (312) 453-0631

CHICAGO—The Better Government Association has had a busy month trying to bring greater transparency to Illinois through the courts and the Internet.

The BGA filed three recent lawsuits accusing local government of violating the Illinois Freedom of Information Act – the state law known as FOIA guaranteeing public access to public records.

The most recent suit, filed Feb. 24 in Cook County Circuit Court, was against the Illinois comptroller for refusing to turn over records showing which state employees the Rauner administration wanted kept on the payroll, allegedly for political reasons.

The complaint says the comptroller’s office “willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by failing to produce the records requested by BGA.”

Another suit was filed Feb. 19 in Cook County against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for refusing to turn over an audio recording that allegedly includes the voice of an agency police officer bragging about drinking and loafing on the job, and making racially insensitive comments.

The other suit, filed Feb. 13, was filed against the Illinois Department of Transportation for refusing to turn over emails relating to BGA media requests.

The BGA asked for those emails “after growing frustrated at IDOT’s lack of responsiveness to its media and FOIA inquiries and in an effort to learn whether IDOT was deliberately obstructing BGA’s [investigative] efforts,” according to the suit, filed in Cook County.

The BGA also recently filed an amicus brief in an existing lawsuit, Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Chicago, calling for the preservation of police misconduct records. The BGA court filing, from Feb. 10, states that it’s “the right of the public to access information about its government, and specifically, to know about and analyze allegations of misconduct made against police officers and how those allegations are handled by those in power.”

All BGA legal actions can be accessed here.

Meanwhile, the BGA also has updated its “FBI Files” database, which contains federal files on notable public figures, adding documents on late Chicago Mayors Jane Byrne and Eugene Sawyer, and late Cook County Commissioner Cal Sutker.

They can be accessed at this link.

The Better Government Association is a Chicago-based nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group that works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.