Illinois Comptroller Sued Over Freedom of Information Act Denial
For the Good of Illinois, a government accountability and transparency group, has filed a lawsuit against Republican Illinois Comptroller, Judy Baar-Topinka, for failure to comply with the group’s request for records of one year of the state’s expenditures under the Freedom of Information Act.
In his op-ed this week, For the Good of Illinois Founder and CEO, Adam Andrzejewski, writes, “We were simply seeking an accounting of the state expenditures so we could share that information with Illinois citizens… Our request was rejected.”
Andrzejewski explains “the comptroller asserted, review, redaction and arrangement of all 2011 vendor payments would take multiple staff members, dedicated solely to this request, more than three days to complete” and that the request would create an “undue burden.”
However, Andrzejewski claims Topinka’s excuse is not credible and her refusal is against “the letter and the spirit of the law.” Andrzejewski asserts the denial is “inexcusable,” as the comptroller’s office staffs 305 employees at an annual $14.5 million--seemingly enough to fulfill the request.
Brad Hahn, a spokesperson for the comptroller’s transparency website, The Ledger, told Illinois Review:
In his rush to hold a press conference, I’m afraid that Mr. Andrzejewski did not realize that an up-to-date record of every dollar the state spends is immediately available… To be clear: there is no magical “state checkbook” for him to flip through. But all the information that is legally available is online, and we would be happy to help him find whatever he’s looking for.
Andrzejewski told Breitbart News, “I’m not going to play psychologist, we are just asking her to obey the Illinois FOIA,” when asked why he thought Baar-Topinka denied the request. He added, “This isn’t personal, this is just about the law. The law is on our side, the people are with us, the comptroller has the data, she has the resources, she just refuses to turn it over.”
Last April, Andrzejewski says his group filed a similar request with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but for 10 years of the city’s checkbooks, not one, and within 10 days the city of Chicago “delivered a true checkbook--including purchase order numbers, fund accounts, department codes, check numbers, vendor names, dates, amount, etc. It covered 6.8 million checks for $74 billion spent since 2001.”
Baar-Topinka, as Republican State Party Chairwoman, also played a role in pressuring Jack Ryan to withdraw from the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, ultimately propelling the winner of that race, Barack Obama, on his career path to the White House.