Carlinville agrees to $90,000 settlement for FOIA related cases

Carlinville agrees to $90,000 settlement for FOIA related

By: CHRIS BEST

Enquirer Democrat writer

At an eventful July 15 city council meeting, the Carlinville City Council approved a $90,000 settlement as a resolution to five Freedom of Information Act related cases, most of which were filed in 2017, between the city of Carlinville and plaintiffs Kraft, Bogue and Thomas who were represented by attorney Josh Burday. Of the seven Council members present at the meeting, six voted to approve the settlement while Ward 2 Alderman Elaine Brockmeier abstained from voting.

When addressing the Council on the matter, City Attorney Daniel O’Brien stressed that the mayor, the city clerk and the Council were not responsible for the decisions made that lead to the FOIA lawsuit. According to O’Brien they all simply followed the advice given to them by their legal council at that time (attorneys Rick Bertinetti and Daniel Schuering).

“I don’t want the public or any member of the council thinking that anyone, especially Ms. Brockmeier, who is our FOIA officer by virtue of being the city clerk, did anything improper or anything that was not under the advice of her attorneys,” O’Brien said. “It turns out that advice was not well made, and so these cases were litigated. There was no success, and so earlier this past year I became more involved. I thought it best that the city do what it can to end these cases, provide whatever documents were not being provided, which we did, and enter into a settlement negotiation with Mr. Burday and The Edgar County Watchdogs, of which all these people are associated with.”

The $90,000 settlement will come from the city’s line item for attorney’s fees, Demuzio said.

The majority of the settlement amount will cover the plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees, though an indeterminate amount in penalties will also be awarded to the plaintiffs. Burday declined to reveal exactly how the settlement would be distributed, stating: “The parties ultimately did not delineate the exact dollar amount that is going to fees versus penalties.”

Regarding the settlement, Burday provided the following statement: “Instead of producing records to the public as FOIA requires, Carlinville decided to spend years fighting for secrecy in the courts. Carlinville ultimately produced the records and FOIA requires public bodies to pay plaintiffs’ attorney’s fees when they prevail in litigation.”

John Howard, left, takes the oath of office at Monday’s City Council meeting. Howard replaces alderman Ward 1 Cindy Campbell. Enquirer-Democrat photo by Chris Best.