Watchdogs file lawsuit against COD for withholding public records
A group of government watchdogs filed a lawsuit against College of DuPage on Thursday alleging numerous violations of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
The lawsuit -- filed by Edgar County Watchdogs and American Transparency or Open the Books -- claims the College of DuPage has been refusing valid FOIA requests, improperly withholding public documents and backdating responses.
The lawsuit calls into question the college's responses to a dozen FOIA requests sent in February and March.
"In an apparent effort to halt further public scrutiny, COD has begun violating FOIA," the lawsuit says. "In short, College of Dupage has been flouting the law."
College of DuPage has been the center of scandal since January when the board gave Breuder a $762,868 buyout as part of an agreement that has him retiring roughly three years before his contract was scheduled to expire.
"We filed today's lawsuit simply to compel the College of DuPage to follow the law," said Adam Andrzejewski, chairman of American Transparency and founder of OpenTheBooks.com
The suit, filed in DuPage County Circuit Court on Thursday afternoon, asks for injunctions that would immediately require College of DuPage officials to release the documents requested. It also asks that the plaintiffs recover their fees and costs and that the college be required to pay a civil penalty "as a consequence of its wrongful, willful and intentional failure to comply with FOIA."
Typically when a person or entity wants to challenge a FOIA request denial, they can appeal to the Attorney General's Public Access Counselor, but Kirk Allen of the Edgar County Watchdogs said a lawsuit seemed like the better course of action here.
"It was a combination of not giving us the records, improper denials, and backdating letters," Allen said. "And we just finally got tired of it. They will not comply with FOIA and it takes too long to wait on the Attorney General's office when you file a complaint with them so we went ahead and filed it in the courts."
In a statement on Thursday night, College of DuPage's attorney Respicio F. Vazquez said: "We are reviewing the complaint and will respond as appropriate."
Daily Herald Staff Writer Safiya Merchant contributed to this report.