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District 205 yet to release unflattering letter
By Joe McGehee
As of press time, The Rock River Times has yet to receive a copy of an unflattering letter written by former Rockford Auburn High School principal and current Freeport High School Principal Dr. Patrick Hardy. The letter was written by Hardy in response to District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield’s letter titled “Separation of Employment,” dated June 17, 2010.
The Rock River Times submitted the original Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request Aug. 18. District 205’s nearly two-month crusade to keep the letter’s contents from the taxpayers of Rockford continues, as they filed for the use of yet another exemption Oct. 8.
As mentioned in the Oct. 13-19, 2010, issue of The Rock River Times, Kathryn S. Vander Broek, of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP of Chicago, drafted a letter requesting the use of exemption 7(1)(n), which they attest prohibits the letter from being released because it allegedly stems from a disciplinary matter. However, Hardy resigned as principal of Auburn High School under his own will to take the position at Freeport.
“I took the job at Freeport on my own,” Hardy said. “I was never disciplined.”
The matter is still under review with the Attorney General’s Public Access Council (PAC). The PAC ruled on The Rock River Times’ Request for Review Sept. 29, rejecting the district’s previous filings for exemptions 7(1)(c) and 7(1)(f), which asserted the letter could not be released because it would represent a breach of privacy and was also a personnel matter.
As a part of the new FOIA, which was enacted Jan. 1, 2010, the PAC has the ability to issue binding opinions in cases involving the release of public information.
According to section 9.5 of FOIA: “Upon receipt of a binding opinion concluding that a violation of this Act has occurred, the public body shall either take necessary action immediately to comply with the directive of the opinion or shall initiate administrative review under Section 11.5. If the opinion concludes that no violation of the Act has occurred, the requester may initiate administrative review under Section 11.5. A public body that discloses records in accordance with an opinion of the Attorney General is immune from all liabilities by reason thereof and shall not be liable for penalties under this Act.”
The PAC is expected to rule on the district’s third filing for the use of an exemption later this week.
From the Oct. 20-26, 2010 issue