Saturday, July 28, 2012
Governor’s Office Stonewalls On Ducking Protests
Whether Gov. Pat Quinn’s staff moved the location for a southern Illinois news conference to avoid protesters remains unresolved. The governor’s office this week denied a Freedom of Information Act request by Illinois Statehouse News about planning for the event held earlier this month.
The request was for “any and all correspondence to and from governor’s office employees regarding the governor’s appearance in southern Illinois on July 16.” Rumors abounded that the governor’s staff moved the location to dodge state employees, family members and others protesting Quinn’s plan to close several state facilities in southern Illinois, including prisons and centers for developmentally disabled people.
Benno Weisberg, an attorney and the FOIA officer for the governor’s office, denied the records request. In a letter, he said staff found “approximately 10 emails responsive to your request,” but that they were being withheld in their entirety. Weisberg cited a FOIA exemption that allows officials to withhold “preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated.”
Don Craven, a Springfield attorney who specializes in open government matters, said the “preliminary drafts” exemption to Illinois FOIA law is overused and that attempts to get lawmakers to rein in the exemption have been unsuccessful. The justifiable purpose of the exemption, he said, is to allow staff members debating policy to be candid as they’re discussing the nuances of a particular issue. “It’s got nothing to do with frantic emails or texts among the governor’s staff about where to set up a podium so he doesn’t have to look at state-employee protesters,” Craven said.
You can read Jayette's full report at: http://watchdog.org/45439/il-governors-office-denies-request-for-emails-about-southern-illinois-appearance/
In the pic: Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to reporters about drought relief during a news conference in a drought-stricken field in rural Waltonville, Jefferson County, two weeks ago.