Matt Topic (773) 368-8812
Robert Herguth (312) 821-9030
CHICAGO—The Chicago Public Schools system is responsible for educating almost 400,000 students.
But CPS administrators have some learning to do as well – on how to follow the state’s main pro-transparency law, the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
Even though the Better Government Association has sued CPS twice over the past year for violating FOIA, the taxpayer-backed school system, overseen by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked CEO Forrest Claypool, continues to thumb its nose at the statute, which guarantees public access to public records.
So like a teacher’s rote instruction, the BGA is going back to the courts to make CPS learn the rules, and abide by them.
The BGA recently filed a motion seeking to amend an existing lawsuit in order to highlight more examples of CPS failing to adhere to FOIA.
On June 15, 2015, the BGA asked for correspondence between ex-CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who has since admitted to corruption, “or several other CPS employees and companies who submitted various types of contract proposals,” according to a copy of the motion.
CPS, under FOIA, was supposed to respond within five business days but has never responded.
On June 19, 2015, the BGA asked for CPS records “showing payments to various companies,” but CPS did not respond within the period outlined in the law.
Altogether, CPS ignored – in blatant violation of FOIA – five recent FOIA requests, all of which are included in the BGA’s new court motion, which a judge has yet to rule on.
“It’s essential for the public and media to be able to readily access records from public agencies – that’s the way taxpayers and watchdogs can hold them accountable and gauge decision making,” said BGA President and CEO Andy Shaw. “I’m astonished that CPS would just blow off FOIA requests, and do so knowing it would probably prompt a new court filing. They’re wasting taxpayer money and our time.”
“It also begs the question of what’s going on: Is this ineptitude, arrogance or is CPS trying to hide something?” Shaw added. “Either way it’s totally unacceptable.”
The motion was filed Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Cook County Circuit Court.
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.