I find it necessary to respond on behalf of the Belleville Treasurer’s office and myself regarding the guest view written by Mayor Mark Eckert regarding the election board hearing. He erroneously stated that a FOIA request could not be produced when the board requested it during the hearing. Immediately upon request, the assistant city clerk retrieved the FOIA request and provided a copy to the board that was then included in the evidential documents for the case in question.
It was also mentioned that the documents were provided on the same day the FOIA request was filed. As a FOIA officer for the city, I am able to respond to FOIA requests specifically made to the Treasurer’s office. I make it a practice that if a FOIA request is filed and response documents can be immediately produced that they be provided at the time of the request. This practice would be exercised for any individual who requests documents through FOIA where the sole responding department is the Treasurer’s office.
It was stated that the documents in question contained private information that may have not been releasable. After discussions with the public access counselor with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, I confirmed that the release of the information is of no consequence when the documents released do not cause damage to the individual in question. I have confirmed with the clerk’s office that the documents in question were surrendered to the board the same day they were produced and entered into as evidence with no copies being created. Further, these documents have attached to them special instructions that if the evidential documents of this hearing are requested through FOIA that this information be redacted. This ensures that the original documents presented to the board remain unaltered to preserve the integrity of them.
My need to respond to this column begs the question why an entire paragraph of the mayor’s guest view was devoted to documents that in the end made little difference in the final decision of the board, except to possibly divert attention from the issue that is being discussed.
Dean Hardt is treasurer of Belleville.