Lee County Board members John Ferrone and Jim Seeberg recently spoke against providing more public information on Lee County’s website [“Site falls short legally,” Sauk Valley Media, Aug. 14]. Ferrone actually called sharing more transparency with constituents “a lot of Mickey Mouse” (and Seeberg agreed).
State’s Attorney Henry Dixon is also practicing “anti-transparency.” He’s blocking all Green River Wind Farm public hearing testimony from being posted on Lee County’s website, even though complete electronic transcripts are part of official county records.
In his letter denying an FOIA request for this data, Dixon states the zoning board of appeals is “not required” to post any information, until testimony is completed many months hence.
These hearings are conducted in courtroom settings with a sitting judge/facilitator, sworn testimony, and court reporter transcribing all testimony. Citizens have the right to question the petitioner’s witnesses.
However, by refusing public access to the hearing transcripts, State’s Attorney Dixon effectively handicaps public questioners’ capabilities to prepare themselves.
Meanwhile, the petitioner’s personnel and witnesses, lawyers, judge/facilitator and zoning board members have complete access to these transcripts. This injustice is akin to a trial judge purposely withholding court hearing transcripts from State’s Attorney Dixon to obstruct his questioning of a witness (legal term for which is “abuse of process”).
In his aforementioned FOIA denial letter, Dixon did suggest questioners “order copies from the [court] reporter.” However, the reporter claims no authority to provide or sell copies to the public. In essence, Mr. Dixon is discriminating against the little guy by inferring that she/he must beg, borrow or pay for public records which can be easily uploaded to the county zoning website page with a keystroke (e.g., “Let them eat cake,” said Marie Antoinette).
The FOIA was established to protect citizens’ rights. Aren’t state’s attorneys and county officials elected to protect citizens’ rights, too?
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