During the 2009 retirement party for Village Clerk Sandra Sokol, the standing-room-only crowd was asked to raise their hands if Sandra had ever helped them. Every hand in the room went up — a room so packed that the fire department almost shut it down.
Village Clerk Vicki Scaman is cut from the same cloth. She is dedicated to providing you, the citizen, with the customer service you're entitled to. An important part of this service is to ensure that citizens get the information they request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Village Clerk's Office is the right place for this critical function. There is no reason to change that and good reasons not to.
Currently, the Village Attorney's Office is under the supervision of the village manager, rather than the village board. This means the Village Attorney's Office is not accountable to the elected officials who are in turn accountable to you the citizens.
Last year, in the context of the Madison Street Road Diet, staff denied an individual's request to obtain traffic count data on Madison Street. The Village Attorney's Office then fought that denial all the way to the Illinois Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General's Office issued a binding legal opinion declaring that the village's refusal violated the Freedom of Information Act. The attorney general then ordered staff to provide this raw data to the requestor. None of this happened by board direction or even the knowledge that it had occurred.
According to Pro Publica, the Public Access Counselor (PAC) annually receives some 30,000 requests from citizens to intervene when they cannot get the information they request from their government. Out of all those requests, the PAC singles out about 20 such cases to issue legally binding opinions declaring a violation of the act. We were one of those violators singled out by PAC.
Last week at the SUA candidate forum, 11 out of 11 candidates running for village trustee stated that FOIA compliance belongs in the Village Clerk's Office. Why? Because the public demands it.
As a progressive community, we are engaged and politically active. Getting access to information on the affairs of government is the lifeblood of an informed citizenry. This imperative is not served by giving the henhouse keys to the foxes who have resisted your rights. As an elected official, the clerk's first loyalty is to the people who elected her. We need Vicki Scaman to remain the FOIA officer, not employees whose loyalty is to the unelected staff who control their jobs.
Simone Boutet is an Oak Park village trustee.
Answer Book 2019
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