Better Government Association sues Rosemont over transparency

Online Staff Report

CHICAGO — The Village of Rosemont has tried to polish its public image since the 2007 death of controversial old-school Mayor Donald E. Stephens.

But the way the tiny, politically powerful northwest suburb handled a recent request for public records was anything but progressive. When the Better Government Association (BGA) asked Rosemont’s municipal government for copies of contracts related to entertainment venues operated by the village — in particular, the Allstate Arena and the convention center named after the late mayor — the village refused to release revenue and other financial information.

The village indicated it didn’t have to release such information, claiming a local ordinance (which was passed by the village board in 2014 in an apparent attempt to specifically shield such data from disclosure) trumps the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the state law requiring government agencies to turn over all public records, except in limited circumstances, to members of the public and press upon request.

The village, now led by Stephens’ son, Bradley Stephens, also claimed it didn’t have to turn over such financial information because it constituted “trade secrets.”

This is beyond ridiculous,” said BGA President and CEO Andy Shaw. “Towns can’t pick and choose what to release to the public. State law is clear on this. What is Rosemont trying to hide? And what happened to this new progressive era of leadership there?

When will government learn it is a not a private business — it’s supposed to be responsive to the public?” Shaw added. “Those entertainment venues are taxpayer facilities. How can taxpayers adequately gauge how well government is operating if nobody can see the books?”

The lawsuit was filed Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Cook County Circuit Court.

This is just the latest transparency-oriented complaint filed by the BGA, which views FOIA as an essential tool for the public to keep watch over local government.

Here’s a link to other BGA legal actions: http://www.bettergov.org/investigations/bga_legal_action.aspx.

The BGA is represented in this case by attorney Matthew Topic of the law firm Loevy & Loevy.

The Better Government Association is a Chicago-based nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group that works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.

Posted Jan. 22, 2015

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