* When operatives for Democratic state treasurer candidate Sen. Michael Frerichs sent Freedom on Information requests to the Illinois House Clerk for lots of files on his GOP opponent Rep. Tom Cross, the House complied. But Cross’ people have asked for most of the same documents from the majority Democratic Senate and have been denied.
In addition to those other documents, the Cross campaign also asked for this stuff…
In a follow-up request from the Cross consultant, KEVIN WRIGHT, he asked the Senate for any electronic or paper correspondence from Frerichs related to a couple of controversies. One is the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative pushed by Gov. PAT QUINN and now under investigation by authorities including the Legislative Audit Commission; the other is “hiring practices and/or recommendations” involving the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The NRI, an anti-violence program in which more than $50 million was pledged toward fighting violence in Chicago, was announced shortly before the 2010 gubernatorial election. It has been the subject of a highly critical state audit citing lax spending controls. And some IDOT hiring over recent years has been criticized as improper patronage.
In a June 6 letter to Wright, of Old Dominion Research Group, Alexandria, Virginia, ERIC MADIAR, the freedom of information officer for the Senate and chief legal counsel to Senate President JOHN CULLERTON, D-Chicago, called the request for information “unduly burdensome,” as it would involve years of emails and other records.
“We extend to you another opportunity to narrow your request to a suitable scope and time frame,” he said.
Madiar also wrote that the communications requested of Frerichs regarding IDOT and NRI either are not “public records” under state law, or would be subject to an exemption to disclosure as being part of a “deliberative process.” That exemption, he said, “protects the communications process, encourages frank and open discussions within state government, and it protects deliberative communications pertaining to government action.”
The Cross people are understandably upset about this, particularly since President Cullerton is Frerichs’ single largest donor this year.
* The Senate Democrats’ response…
RIKEESHA PHELON, spokeswoman for Cullerton, said, “We asked that they narrow the scope of the initial request that includes documentation that spans eight years. In response, they broadened the request to include documents that are not considered public records. We are still awaiting a response to (the) third letter that we sent to the opposition research company so that we can prepare the documents that can be released by law.”
Asked about the apparent different responses between the House and Senate to somewhat similar requests under the same law, Phelon said, “Different chamber, different process, different lawyers.”
Welcome to Illinois.