Attorney General’s Office: Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills District 181 violated FOIA law

Former Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board member Yvonne Mayer, speaks at a recent meeting. | File photo
Former Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board member Yvonne Mayer, speaks at a recent meeting. | File photo

The Public Access Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office has ruled Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 improperly withheld in a Freedom of Information Act request for an audio recording of an Aug. 21, 2013 Goals Committee meeting.

That determination, from Assistant Attorney General Christopher R. Boggs came in response to a request by former board member Yvonne Mayer.

Mayer said she filed her request for the audio tape Aug. 30, 2013, after Matt Bousquette, a member of the Goals Committee, claimed goals presented during a regular board meeting did not match what had taken place at the committee.

The district denied the request Sept. 9, 2013, stating the audio tape was exempt from inspection and copying because it was a preliminary vehicle used by recording secretary Jean Duggan to create written minutes of the committee meeting.

Boggs wrote that although Duggan may have recorded the meeting for the purpose of assisting her in preparing the minutes, the recording of the open meeting itself is not preliminary in nature.

The recording provides a verbatim account of the committee’s open meeting, including discussion of how to best formulate measurable student performance goals, Boggs’ opinion stated.

The Public Access Bureau previously determined a public official’s recording of an open meeting is a public record.

“The district, board and administration will comply with the Attorney General’s ruling and we have no further comment on anything else.” said District 181 Board President Marty Turek.

The “anything else” to which Turek referred were three suggestions made by Mayer in a letter to the board.

Mayer suggested District 181 promptly produce a copy of the audiotape for her and that the tape and Attorney General’s decision be posted in the FOIA portal on the district’s website. A copy of the tape was provided to her; it also was posted on the website Aug. 18 along with the Attorney General’s decision letter.

Mayer also suggested the board and White consider asking someone from the Attorney General’s office to attend a board meeting this fall and conduct a training session on the requirements of FOIA and the Open Meetings Act.

“Everyone, from the board, to the administration to the community could benefit from a public training,” she said.

Mayer’s third suggestion to Superintendent Don White and the board was for a discussion on hiring a different law firm to represent the board.

She questioned the advice the law firm gave the board both in this FOIA case and in a case earlier this year in which the Attorney General’s office ruled the district violated the Open Meetings Act. That case was the result of a request by Mayer, denied by the district, for a copy of a fact-finding report.

“It is quite clear that they have not served in the board’s best interest or that of the D181 taxpayers,” Mayer wrote. “The legal advice that they have provided you over the last few years, especially in the area of open governance requirements, has been flawed and repeatedly found to violate the FOIA and OMA laws.”

0 Comments

Do you have the scariest house on the block? Or the cutest kid in costume? Share your Halloween photos with us! Click here to submit them.


Modal