Our view: No matter the cost, sunshine laws important
SouthtownStar editorial February 19, 2013 10:10PM
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:13AM
Tinley Park officials last week released a report on how much time and energy goes into fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests to the village. The report estimated how much fulfilling FOIA requests cost the village in 2012 in gathering and reviewing the documents.
Village Clerk Patrick Rea said the village spent $16,120 last year meeting 375 requests for public information. Of that amount, 18 requests by Steve Eberhardt, longtime Mayor Ed Zabrocki’s opponent this spring, cost the village $9,212 — more than half the yearly total because they were so extensive.
A nice political move, aimed at showing that Eberhardt has gotten carried away with his FOIA efforts and is overburdening village employees who have other things to do. That may be true.
But the timing of the report’s release is curious. So is its message.
Rea said the village has released similar data the past two years and was simply doing so again. “This is not something we put together in order to harass Steve,” he said.
For his part, Eberhardt does seem to have gone overboard last month. Rea’s report claims Eberhardt’s requests cost village taxpayers $9,390 in January— more than all his requests did last year.
Voters can decide if that’s an objectionable amount. But, as Eberhardt said, he has every right to seek such information.
And at least one of his requests revealed a most interesting nugget.
Last month, Eberhardt called out the incumbents seeking election April 9, claiming that taxpayer-funded photos were used in campaign materials. It wasn’t a huge dollar amount, but the pictures of Zabrocki, Rea and trustees Dave Seaman, Brian Maher and T.J. Grady were quickly replaced with non-official photos.
For government to work properly, there have to be effective checks and balances, and the governed have to know what’s going on. As Eberhardt said, “it’s the duty of government to let people know how they’re spending their money.”