Metro-East News

Madison County recorder challenger alleges FOIA missteps by Meyer

Amy Meyer
Amy Meyer

Democratic challenger Shannon Bradford alleged Thursday that Madison County Recorder Amy Meyer improperly redacted documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act and did not respond quickly enough to requests.

Bradford said she filed a FOIA request on Feb. 3 for various documents, including Meyer’s personal calendar, emails and invoices relating to a holiday card mailed by the office, and emails relating to services provided by various independent contractors, including consultant Kristen Poshard and trainer Laura Burkey.

“In their response to our request, the recorder’s office committed multiple violations of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act,” Bradford said. “This type of secretive behavior by establishment politicians is exactly why people have lost faith in government.”

Specifically:

• Bradford requested a copy of Meyer’s calendar. It was provided, and is apparently handwritten. Multiple items were redacted, and Bradford said nothing should have been redacted without citing an authorized exemption to redact anything.

Meyer said the information was of a personal nature, separate from her work as recorder.

“I’m a mother with two teenagers, and I keep their schedule on my calendar,” Meyer said. “I don’t believe that information is subject to FOIA.”

• Bradford requested documents related to a “Season’s Greetings” card mailed in December 2015. The card lists the services provided by the recorder’s office, including certified copies of veterans’ discharge papers, out-of-county marriage and birth certificates, business services for “escrow draw down,” land records, property fraud cases and more, with website links and phone numbers.

On the inside, it reads: “From our AFSCME Local 799 Staff, wishing you a joyous holiday and a bright new year.” It is signed by 11 employees of the recorder’s office, including Meyer.

This type of secretive behavior is exactly why people have lost faith in government.

Shannon Bradford, Democratic challenger for county recorder

Bradford said Meyer’s office provided the emails relating to the design of the card and a list of recipients, who mostly consist of County Board members, mayors and other elected officials, title companies, union locals, surveyors, realtors, banks and law firms. However, Bradford said, they failed to provide the invoices or receipts for the printing.

Meyer said receipts were not provided because the recorder’s office did not pay for it.

“I paid for it out of my own pocket,” she said. It was intended as a thank you and gesture of goodwill, she said. The union mention was on behalf of her employees, who are members of that local. “That’s their union, and they’re proud of their union, so they signed it,” Meyer said. “But I paid for it.”

• Bradford also requested all emails from any email address, public or private, relating to services provided by Laura Burkey Coaching or consultant Kristen Poshard. Staci Coles, FOIA officer for the recorder’s office, requested two extensions of time and a narrowing of the request, citing it as “overly burdensome.”

Bradford said the emails were provided on Wednesday, but should have been provided on Feb. 18. She said she has requested a review of the FOIA requests from the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

“At this stage, one can only speculate as to what Ms. Meyer may be trying to hide and why her office is not properly complying with the state’s sunshine laws,” Bradford said. “One has to wonder if the redacted and withheld documents may shine more light on Ms. Meyer’s practice of law on taxpayers’ time, wasteful spending, and use of her office for political purposes.”

Meyer said she has “every confidence” that Coles followed proper procedures and that the attorney general’s office will find that they complied with FOIA.

“(Bradford) has made numerous FOIA requests on my office, and my officer has spent a great deal of time diligently responding to them,” Meyer said. “(The emails) took a bit longer because of the burdensome nature, and required us to work with the IT department as well. Then we had to review all of the documents to make sure no personnel information was included… In light of that, I think it was timely.”

Poshard agreed, stating that Bradford has already requested and received her report detailing the audit she performed of the recorder’s office procedures.

“Based on Ms. Bradford's actions, I think she has a need to bully the workers in the Recorder's office because they don't support her campaign and I think these press conferences and releases are nothing more than a ruse,” Poshard said.

At this point, any issue that she wishes to bring up is just a desperate attempt to keep her name in the papers.

Amy Meyer, Madison County Recorder

Meyer added that Bradford had previously requested copies of all mail sent by the recorder’s office over the past three years, which she termed “incredibly burdensome.” That request numbered more than 7,000 copies, but upon being notified that they were available, Bradford indicated she did not want them copied.

“At the advice of the state’s attorney, we indicated that she could come in and review these documents,” Meyer said. “As of now she still has yet to come in and review these documents… At this point, any issues that she wishes to bring up is just a desperate attempt to keep her name in the papers.”

In response, Bradford said she had requested the documents in electronic format; Meyer said her office had called to confirm the printing request and both the number of pages and the cost were approved.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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