Chatham's shallow response to FOIA request criticized
A candidate's request to see emails about local water quality allegedly received by the Village of Chatham’s president was improperly rejected last month, the Edgar County Watchdogs said recently.
An Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in February by Darlene Judd, who is running against incumbent Village President Tom Gray, called for the release of the records. The request was sparked by a story in the Springfield State Journal-Register that quoted Gray as saying he was aware of ongoing problems with water quality in the village, but that some residents had sent him emails that spoke positively about the water.
The State Journal-Register’s article detailed concerns by citizens about the poor quality of tap water in the village, as well as results of a resident survey.
The village’s FOIA officer, Pat Schad, responded in a letter that said Gray told Schad that he didn’t remember making the comments and was unaware of any such emails.
“Accordingly, as there are no documents to provide, the village is denying your request,” Schad wrote in response.
An FOIA request should result in a formal search for the mentioned documents, Edgar County Watchdogs researcher Kirk Allen argued. A verbal question to the village president is inadequate.
“I would urge mayoral candidate Judd to file a request for review with the attorney general public access counselor to get to the bottom of this,” he said, adding that there’s also a chance the newspaper erred in its report.
“We can’t rule out the paper fabricating Mayor Gray’s comments, although I highly doubt that to be the case,” Allen said.