The Illinois Press Association (IPA) unveiled its list of this years Worsty Award recipients Sept. 20. For the second year in a row, the Caledonia Village Board has the distinction of having abused Illinois Sunshine laws. The board moved up in this years rankings when it attempted to raise the price of copies for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from 15 cents to $1 per page.
In 2006, Caledonia received the award for a violation of the Open Meetings Act (OMA).
As The Rock River Times was first to report in March, Caledonia trustees voted unanimously to raise the price per copy after receiving an escalating number of FOIA requests from the media and private citizens. One trustee, Jack Nicholson, suggested the price hike might be help to discourage future FOIA inquiries.
In response, the Citizen Advocacy Center drafted a letter to the board, advising trustees the move was unwise. The board later reversed its decision to raise the price of copies.
IPA Director of Government Relations Beth Bennett noted, There was no shortage of examples to pick from.
The Worsty Award is broken down into two categories, highlighting the most serious abuses of the FOIA and OMA in Illinois. This year, the Caledonia Village Board of Trustees ranked third for the states most-egregious defiance of the FOIA.
The goal of the award is to bring attention to violations in an effort to discourage future breaches. Although only the attorney generals office has the authority to prosecute such infringements, the IPA feels the Worsty Award is its own form of reprimand.
Dave Bennett, executive director of the IPA, explained, Perhaps these awards will bring enough notoriety and embarrassment to the violators that it will help to stem the tide of this dangerous trend.
The law firm of Nicolosi and Associates represented Caledonia in 2006, and Winnebago County States Attorney Phil Nicolosi was a member of the firm at that time.from the Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2007, issue