* Let’s return to ProPublica’s story on the attorney general’s public access office (PAC), which handles FOIA disputes…
“Here’s what they need to do: Pull the plug on the PAC’s office,” said Bruce Rushton, a staff writer for the Illinois Times newspaper who has written about delays and inaction from the office. Rushton argued that the attorney general’s office is too politicized to oversee disputes involving other politicians and government bodies, including state agencies it’s charged with representing in court.
“Only a fool would put an elected official in Illinois in charge of riding herd on other elected officials,” Rushton said. “But that’s what we’ve done.”
Madigan was not available for an interview, according to a spokeswoman. But other officials in her office said the PAC has helped thousands of people access government information while leading a shift in the culture of the state toward more transparency.
“We started from scratch and created this, and I think we really do help people every day,” said Ann Spillane, the attorney general’s chief of staff.
“We have areas where we need to improve,” she acknowledged. But in addition to its rulings, Spillane stressed that the office provides education to the public on open-government laws, including through a hotline. “We’re one of the rare places in government where you can pick up the phone and talk to a lawyer.”
* The Question: Should the public access counselor’s office be removed from the attorney general and set up as an independent office? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. And if you vote “Yes,” tell us how you would set it up.