Transparency News, 9/28/20


 September 28, 2020
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state & local news stories
A Matteson Elementary School District 159 (Illinois) administrator facing termination proceedings for the third time has taken a new job with a Virginia school district, officials confirmed Friday. District 159 school board members in July approved disciplinary charges and a bill of particulars recommending the dismissal of finance director Demetria Brown. An administrative hearing was scheduled for Wednesday before the board could render a final decision. The board met Wednesday for five hours, 40 minutes in a closed-door session but did not reconvene to open session for the online meeting due to " technical difficulties," according to a statement on the district’s website. The statement does not mention Brown or any disciplinary proceeding against her. Brown was still listed Friday on the District 159 website as chief school business official/finance director. But Mark Johnston, division superintendent of the Shenandoah County, Virginia public schools, said Friday that Brown had been hired as his district’s finance director in June and started working there July 1. Brown was terminated from District 159 in 2008 and 2016 before being most recently rehired in 2019. In both termination instances, district superintendents cited instances of insubordination and misconduct, according to personnel records obtained by the Daily Southtown through Freedom of Information requests.
Chicago Tribune
stories of national interest
Delaware Gov. John Carney updated his Coronavirus emergency order Friday. Among the changes is the resumption of the processing Freedom of Information Act requests.  The state has been criticized for suspending deadlines for FOIA request reponses during the Coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, GOP candidate for governor Julianne Murray says she was very concerned about the move during a candidate forum last Tuesday. FOIA requests are now required to meet scheduled deadlines again, but it’s unclear if there’s a backlog of requests made during the pandemic.
Delaware Public Radio

A Cook County (Illinois) judge has ruled that Chicago Zoological Society documents related to a 2015 exhibit where 54 stingrays died due to an equipment malfunction are public records and subject to a Freedom of Information request from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Initially, PETA tried to obtain the documents from the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo, but was rebuffed due to the fact that the society is not a public body. PETA then sought to obtain the documents through a Freedom of Information request to the Cook County Forest Preserve District, which owns the land where Brookfield Zoo is located. The Forest Preserves produced some documents, but none relating to the exhibit, which it said it did not possess and belonged to a private agency. The district claimed the operating zoo exhibits "does not involve a government function under the purview of the district." PETA appealed to the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor, which issued a non-binding opinion that the records were, in fact, FOIA-eligible since the Forest Preserve District Act "specifically authorizes the district to maintain a zoo" and "has contracted with the Zoological Society to perform a government function." Judge Anna M. Loftus's opinion denying the forest preserve district's motion to dismiss upheld PETA's arguments. An amendment to the state's FOIA law in 2010 extended its reach by specifically adding language to address situations where a public body has outsourced a governmental function.
Riverside-Brookfield Landmark

Eighty-seven days have passed, and our New York Freedom of Information Law request has finally been has received 171-pages worth of emails from the servers of the Ontario County Public Health office on Friday, September 25. Originally, the request was supposed to be submitted in its entirety on Friday, September 13th, but that did not happen only after Ontario County Assistant Attorney Matthew Turetsky explained in an email on that same day. Even though the process had been delayed by two-weeks, the documents were not fully released.