Officials: FOIA requests too much for Sauk Village

2013-09-08T08:00:00Z Officials: FOIA requests too much for Sauk VillageDavid P. Funk Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 08, 2013 8:00 am  • 

SAUK VILLAGE | Sauk Village officials say they have received so many Freedom of Information Act requests in the last year, it is beginning to weigh on village coffers and slow daily operations.

Village Clerk Debbie Williams said Sauk Village has been asked to fulfill more than 100 FOIA requests in the last year, including 18 on Aug. 27 alone. Things started to get out of hand in the politically divided municipality about five years ago, she said.

"There's no rhyme or reason to this," Williams said. "They're making a sham of the FOIA system."

The village is considering adding a page to its official website publishing the names of the most frequent FOIA requesters including the cost and time spent by attorneys and staff on each request. Similar sites already exist for Chicago, Lisle and Oswego School District 308.

"I feel confident that the village can post the FOIAs online since there are already quite a few other public bodies that post this type of information on their websites," village President David Hanks said.

Hanks said he hopes to have the site up and running within 35 to 40 days. A physical log is available in the Village Hall.

Williams said she believes many of the requests are politically motivated, made by jaded former village officials or those who've lost elections in the past.

"I have no problem with FOIA requests, but some of it is just silly, nonsensical stuff," she said. "They're taking staff off of what they need to be doing -- and we're already short-staffed as it is."

Many requests were made by Sauk Village Citizens for Public Awareness, a group aligned with a political party that opposed many of the current Village Board members in the last election.

All 18 filed Aug. 27 were requested by Sauk Village Citizens for Public Awareness, and include requests for lists of salary and benefits for all village employees, road repairs from January 2012 to December 2013, the location and list of all inoperable fire hydrants and copies of the general ledger from Jan. 1 to the present date.

Representatives for Sauk Village Citizens for Public Awareness did not return messages and an email to the organization was not deliverable.

"Not all, however, many are political and their agenda is to cost the village money or slow the forward motion," Hanks said. "Residents only have to ask and we’ll provide the information, if possible."

Former Sauk Village trustee Joseph Wiszowaty has made 24 FOIA requests since January, according to the village log. He calls the proposed website a "hit list."

"Before (becoming village president), David Hanks would relentlessly question everything (former village president) Lewis Towers did," Wiszowaty said. "This website would only be an attempt to embarrass people into not questioning their village government."

Wiszowaty no longer lives in the village, but produces news and editorials on his blog, "The Sauk Villager," and Facebook page. He said he's published the information received from most of the FOIA requests he's made, but not all of it.

Wiszowaty has asked the public access counselor for the state to review two FOIA requests that Sauk Village denied, the attorney general's office has confirmed. Hanks said the village has not been contacted regarding the review.

"If they want to stop all these FOIA requests, it's very easy; just become open and honest," Wiszowaty said. "They don't want to be held accountable.

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