Burr Ridge Reveals Highest-Cost Records Requesters

March 13, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

BURR RIDGE, IL – Burr Ridge on Monday disclosed the identities of the top requesters of public records so far this budget year, which ends April 30.
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At this point, the village has received 130 total requests, which is on track to reach the numbers from previous budget years – 149 in 2021, 179 in 2022 and 190 in 2023.

The village must answer such requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Complaints about public bodies’ handling of requests go to the attorney general’s office.

Find out what's happening in Burr Ridgewith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Answering the requests has cost the village $26,651 this budget year. Of that, more than 75 percent was spent on responding to complaints with the attorney general.

Since 2020, 15 complaints have been filed against Burr Ridge. In a memo, Village Manager Evan Walter said the village has prevailed in each case. Some of the current requesters’ complaints may be unresolved.

Find out what's happening in Burr Ridgewith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Patch received the information Monday through a public records request.

Here is the village’s list of the top requesters when it comes to legal bills (in parentheses are the portions of the totals that were spent on fighting complaints):

In an email to Patch on Tuesday, Davis, the top requester, said the Freedom of Information Act is a citizen’s right to information on how government works.

“I’m thrilled to be Number One on Burr Ridge’s FOIA Hit List. It simply means I am very interested in how my Village operates,” Davis said. “As I will soon present to the Village Board, many of the FOIA requests I made last year were the result of Village staff not answering my simple questions despite repeated requests. Additionally, some FOIAs on my ‘tab’ originated from Village staff and not from me.”

Outside of responding to complaints, the village said it has spent $6,619 this year on answering requests. That works out to four hours of legal assistance per month, the village said.

A couple of months ago, Trustee Joe Snyder requested the list. He and other trustees have long complained about the costs of public records requests.

At Monday’s Village Board meeting, Snyder asked the village to post the list of requesters on the website. He said the requesters are placing additional costs on the village.

“They continue to ask for things that were already asked and answered,” Snyder said.

Manager Walter said most requests are “pretty benign,” seeking things such as permits.

Burr Ridge officials rarely mention the value of the information produced as a result of requests.

In October, Patch revealed emails from Walter in which he said Costco must be a part of any development of the CNH Industrial site. Neighbors oppose such a plan.

Also, an email to Patch in April showed Walter denying any knowledge of the possibility of a Costco on the CNH site, even though he repeatedly emailed a Costco representative for months about just that.

Another public records request to the village showed the Burr Ridge Park District discussed the CNH development behind closed doors. As a result of that, the attorney general recently found the district violated the Open Meetings Act.

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