Cairo refuses newspaper's public records request

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

CAIRO, Ill. -- City officials have not replied as required by law to two open-record requests from the Southeast Missourian, sent via e-mail in January.

The requests, directed to city clerk Debran Sudduth, have been turned over to city attorney Michael O'Shea. The requests were sent Jan. 18 and Jan. 25. The Illinois Freedom of Information Law requires a written response to records requests within seven working days.

The requests were sent via e-mail because Sudduth asked for the Missourian to send them through that medium.

Among the documents sought by the Missourian are:

* City ordinances governing the operation, powers, responsibilities and pay of council members and the mayor.

* A list of city employees and their salaries.

* Copies of material considered by the council in open session.

* Invoices for metal detectors used to screen visitors to city council sessions.

* Any threatening letters that justified the use of searches and weapons screenings at city council meetings.

The first three items were requested Jan. 18. The final two were requested Jan. 25, after Mayor Paul Farris ordered that metal detectors be used.

After a special city council meeting Tuesday, Sudduth said that the attitude of a Missourian reporter seeking the records would be the major factor in determining whether they would be provided.

"The way you come to City Hall will determine whether you are worked with or not," Sudduth said.

Farris remained silent while Sudduth was asked about the status of the requests.

The city should have replied to the first request by Jan. 27 under state law, said Terry Mutchler, public access counselor for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, a public body is required to respond in writing promptly and, absent any extraordinary circumstances, within seven days," Mutchler said.

The attorney general's office will review the Missourian's request and contact Cairo to find out what is holding up compliance, she said.

"We will review it and determine if there are any violations of the act and attempt to get them corrected if there are," she said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: