Public information is tough to come by in St. Clair County. Some friends and I sought information regarding specific tax dollar expenditures made by the county through the Freedom of Information Act.
Unfortunately, St. Clair County FOIA officer Sean Murley blatantly ignores FOIA requests or takes well beyond the state mandated time frame to provide information. Of the five FOIA requests filed, two took more than 16 business days while the other three have not been fulfilled for more than 20 business days. This failure to produce information is a violation of Illinois state law.
In Illinois, each taxing body has a FOIA officer who fills public information requests within five business days. If more time is needed, the FOIA offer can ask for a five-day extension in writing. Murley doesn’t ask for extensions; he simply ignores the requests hoping you will give up or go away.
Recently Murley was directed by the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor to respond to two information requests. However, Murley chooses to ignore the PAC officer’s letter, as he hasn’t filled one of the requests. On what grounds does he ignore the Attorney General’s office?
Public access to government information is paramount to having open and honest government. Is Murley simply incompetent, or is it more sinister, like trying to limit public information to taxpayers? Perhaps it’s time for a new FOIA officer in St. Clair County; maybe one who will follow the law?
Kent Strang, O’Fallon