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Last week, the Illinois Attorney General issued an opinion responding to a question about pension forfeiture. Att’y Gen Op. 22-001. (Note that this opinion is not issued by the PAC office and is unrelated to that office’s duties relating to OMA and FOIA).The opinion was in response to a question raised by the General Assembly Retirement System (which deals with pension benefits for General Assembly members) as to whether former state representative Arroyo’s guilty plea for felony wire fraud charges requires forfeiture of his pension benefits. The Attorney General looked at Section 2-156 of the Pension Code which requires the
Continue Reading Attorney General Issues Opinion on Pension Forfeiture for Former State Representative

An inmate at a correctional center made several FOIA requests to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) seeking his medical records and copies of administrative rules. IDOC initially denied the requests for medical records because the inmate failed to follow IDOC’s administrative policy. IDOC also initially denied the inmate’s copies for certain administrative rules based on FOIA exemptions.

The inmate sued IDOC alleging that (1) his medical records were withheld in violation of FOIA and (2) that the inmate was entitled to recover costs and penalties. The circuit court dismissed the inmate’s lawsuit, finding that the inmate’s medical records were
Continue Reading Inmate Not Entitled to Fees and Costs under FOIA

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an interesting opinion on students right to free speech in the context of school clothing. N.J. v. Sonnabend.

Two middle school students sued their Wisconsin school districts after they were barred from wearing t-shirts with messages in support of the right to bear arms. One t-shirt displayed a Smith &  Wesson logo with an image of a revolver. The other t-shirt displayed the logo of the Wisconsin Carry, Inc., a gun rights group, and an image of a handgun. The students sued their respective school administrators in separate lawsuits alleging violations
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Remands Case Relating to Right to Bear Arms T-Shirts in Schools

In 2018, an inmate filed two FOIA requests with the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) seeking personal information about other inmates and certain inmate master record files. The DOC denied both requests on the basis that the records were specifically prohibited from disclosure by state laws. The inmate filed a pro se lawsuit against DOC seeking civil penalties, attorney fees, and costs alleging that DOC improperly denied the inmate’s requests. While the inmate’s complaint was pending, the DOC provided him with records responsive to the initial FOIA requests. The trial court ruled in favor of the DOC in the lawsuit,
Continue Reading Court Finds FOIA Challenge Moot But Remands Back to Trial Court to Analyze Whether Initial Denial Was in Bad Faith

The Illinois General Assembly recently passed several new laws to amend competitive bidding requirements for some units of local government, as follows:
Public Act 102-0728 amends the Illinois Township Code to increase the competitive bidding threshold for the purchase of services, materials, equipment, or supplies as well as construction projects to $30,000 from $20,000.
Public Act 102-0999 amends the Illinois Park District Code to increase the competitive bidding threshold for contracts for supplies, materials, or work to $30,000 from $25,000.
Public Act 102-0138 amends the Fire Protection District Act to provide that improvements to real estate by a fire protection
Continue Reading New Laws Raise the Competitive Bidding Threshold for Some Units of Local Government

A requestor submitted a FOIA request to a municipality seeking all approved sales tax sharing agreements/settlements approved within the past 30 days. The City initially denied the request, stating it had no responsive records because there had been no agreements approved in the preceding 30 days or the agreements were not yet signed by all parties. The requestor then sued the City claiming it had violated FOIA. However, after the lawsuit was filed, the City provided the requestor with two signed agreements responsive to the FOIA request. Several months later, the City also provided the requestor with three more documents
Continue Reading Court Dismisses FOIA Lawsuit as "Moot" Where Records Were Ultimately Provided

Last week, P.A. 102-1084, the Park District and Public Utility Liability Act, was enacted, providing good news for park districts, forest preserve districts, conservation districts, or other local entities with a park and recreation department or facilities (Parks Entity) who have leases with public utility companies. The new law provides that any provision in a lease agreement between a public utility and a Parks Entity that requires the Parks Entity to indemnify or hold harmless the public utility company against liability for injury or property damage is against public policy, void, and unenforceable. The law makes it clear that
Continue Reading New Law Protects Park Districts in Leases with Utility Companies

After an officer-involved shooting incident in 2020, a police department (CPD) received FOIA requests asking for various records about the incident, including audio and video recordings. The CPD produced certain records, but also withheld others based on several FOIA exemptions, including applicable law enforcement exemptions and the unduly burdensome exemption. The requestors filed a lawsuit against the CPD alleging that (1) the CPD improperly withheld requested records, (2) failed to conduct a reasonably diligent search, and (3) willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by denying their requests. The trial court ruled in favor of the CPD, finding that it had proved
Continue Reading Court Upholds Denial of Request for Shooting Incident Records as Unduly Burdensome

In 2016, a property owner try to buy a portion of a nearby right-of-way abutting the owner’s property in order to make the area of the owner’s property large enough to subdivide into two lots without requiring a zoning variance. In 2018, the municipality agreed to vacate a portion of its right-of-way to the owner in exchange for $80,000 and an easement guaranteeing the municipality continued public use and access to the vacated right-of-way. That same year, the municipality approved the vacation ordinance, which authorized vacating part of the subject right-of-way, and a subdivision resolution, which approved a preliminary and
Continue Reading Court Upholds Municipal Vacation of Street

In response to Illinois Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders 2020-32, 2020-38, and 2020-43 (which included requiring residents to “stay at home,” compelling all “non-essential businesses” to temporarily close, and prohibiting gatherings of more than a specified number of people), several individuals and businesses filed suit against Governor Pritzker, claiming that his Executive Orders violated various provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including that the restrictions violated the First Amendment free speech, religious exercise, and assembly rights, their Due Process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, and the case was appealed
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Rejects Takings and Other Constitutional Challenges to Governor’s COVID-19 Measures

In Batelli v. Village of Addison, a pedestrian was injured after tripping on a clearly visible raised sidewalk square while walking along a publicly maintained sidewalk. The pedestrian sued the municipality, alleging the municipality’s negligent failure to properly maintain its public sidewalks breached its duty of care owed to her as a pedestrian using publicly maintained walkways. The trial court ruled in favor of the municipality, finding that the municipality did not owe her a duty of care because the raised sidewalk was an “open and obvious danger.” The appellate court agreed, finding that the danger presented by the
Continue Reading Municipality Not Liable for Sidewalk Trip and Fall

Effective January 1, 2023, municipalities will have express statutory authority to adopt ordinances to eradicate buckthorn on all public and private property within its jurisdiction. P.A. 102-0840 amends the Illinois Exotic Weed Act to add the following new language:
(d) Notwithstanding any other provisions in this Section for the control of exotic weeds, a municipality may adopt an ordinance to eradicate common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula), saw-toothed buckthorn (Rhamnus arguta), dahurian buckthorn (Rhamnus davurica), Japanese buckthorn (Rhamnus japonica), and Chinese buckthorn (Rhamnus utilis) on all public and private property within its geographic boundaries.

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Continue Reading General Assembly Amends Exotic Weed Act to Address Buckthorn Eradication

The Public Access Counselor of the Attorney General’s Office (PAC) just issued a binding opinion finding a public body in violation of the OMA for failing to include language on a meeting agenda informing members of the public how they could remotely attend a meeting of the public body that was held virtually. PAC Op. 22-007.

A village board of trustees posted an agenda of a regular meeting with language indicating that the board members would be attending the meeting virtually. A member of the public filed a request for review with the PAC office alleging that the board
Continue Reading PAC Issues Binding Opinion on Remote Meeting Agendas

Municipality and county officials should be aware of a new recordkeeping obligation relating to demolition records submitted to the municipality or county. 
P.A. 102-847 amends the Illinois Municipal Code and Counties Code to require a municipality or county that brings a court action to demolish, repair, remediate, or enclose a dangerous or unsafe building within its jurisdiction (under 65 ILCS 5/11-31-1 or 55 ILCS 5/5-1121) to maintain for a period of 3 years any documentation submitted by a contractor relating to the disposal of demolition debris or uncontaminated soil generated during the demolition or work that identifies the following information:
Continue Reading New Record Retention Requirements for Local Governments Addressing Dangerous or Unsafe Buildings

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayor of the City of Carbondale issued Executive Order 2020-04 (EO 4) on June 2, 2020, changing the closing hour of existing beer gardens in the City from 1:59 a.m. to 10 p.m. The holder of a “beer garden” license from the City repeatedly refused to follow the closure requirement despite numerous police warnings. On June 4, 2020, the Mayor issued a five day suspension of the bar owner’s license for violation of the EO 4.The bar owner then filed a lawsuit against the City and several City officials, seeking to overturn the
Continue Reading Court Properly Dismissed Challenge to City’s Executive Order Requiring Early Closing for Liquor Establishments

On May 10, 2022, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion analyzing under what circumstances a school district could be held liable under Title IX (a federal statute) for alleged abuse of a student by a school employee. C.S. v. Madison Metropolitan School District According to the facts in the court’s opinion, during a student’s seventh-grade year at school, several employees reported to the principal that they were concerned about incidents they witnessed involving a school security assistant: the employee was seen giving back rubs to students, allowing the young girl in question to visit his office
Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Clarifies Scope of Liability for Abuse Claims Under Title IX