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Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015 03:48 pm

AG rules against Rauner, in favor of Illinois Times

Newspaper sues governor


Gov. Bruce Rauner has refused to release his appointment calendar to Illinois Times, so the paper sued him today, following a favorable decision from the Illinois Attorney General. Photo by Patrick Yeagle.

 

Illinois Times today sued Gov. Bruce Rauner after Attorney General Lisa Madigan ruled that the governor must turn over his appointment calendar in response to the paper’s request made under the state Freedom of Information Act.

The newspaper asked for Rauner’s appointment calendar last spring after the governor walked out of a Holocaust remembrance ceremony. The newspaper’s request came after the governor’s press office ignored an emailed query asking where the governor had gone while a Holocaust survivor spoke at the annual ceremony held at the Old State Capitol.

Rauner gave the newspaper a redacted version of his appointment calendar showing that he had attended a meeting in the governor’s office while the ceremony continued. The governor redacted the names of the person, or people, with whom he met. The newspaper subsequently appealed to the attorney general, who ruled that Rauner must disclose the names of the people who attend meetings memorialized in his appointment calendar, which is prepared by public employees on public time using public equipment.

Rauner had claimed that the calendar was maintained for the governor’s convenience, but the attorney general determined that the calendar is the public’s business.

“(T)his office’s review of the redacted entries indicates that they all appear to pertain to the business of the state, rather than the personal affairs or private business interests of the governor,” Michael J. Luke, counsel to Madigan, wrote in the 18-page decision issued Tuesday. “Because the governor’s calendar was prepared and is maintained by the governor’s office and pertains to public business, it is a public record of the governor’s office for purposes of the Illinois FOIA.”

The newspaper sued Rauner today in Sangamon County Circuit Court, demanding that the governor release the requested appointment calendar. The newspaper sued because the attorney general’s decision is not final and could be appealed in court by the governor. In short, the Illinois Freedom of Information Act contains no provisions that force the governor to follow the attorney general’s directive.

“We have no way to enforce a binding opinion (by the attorney general),” said Don Craven, attorney for Illinois Times. “They (the governor’s staff) can just sit there and do nothing.”

Other media outlets, including the Associated Press and the Chicago Reader, have been unsuccessful in convincing Rauner to release his appointment calendar showing with whom he has met. Rauner has also refused to tell the Chicago Reader the names of lawyers in private practice who have done work for the state and been paid with public money.

In refusing to release his calendar to Illinois Times, Rauner had claimed that providing unredacted copies would pose a security risk and that someone who intended to harm the governor could discern patterns from the calendar that would provide opportunities to physically hurt Rauner. The attorney general’s office, after examining Rauner’s unredacted appointment calendar, determined that was nonsense.

“The governor’s calendar predominately consists of information regarding appointments: names of individuals and groups, and telephone numbers or meeting locations as applicable,” Luke wrote in his written decision. “The governor’s office has not provided facts demonstrating that disclosing those names, telephone numbers or meeting locations from past appointments would pose a security risk to the governor.”

The governor had also claimed that information on his appointment calendar was preliminary in nature and therefore exempt from disclosure. However, the attorney general found that Rauner had not demonstrated that this was true.

Rauner had also claimed that the public could discern his thought processes and legal strategies if he revealed his appointment calendar, particularly with regard to meetings attended by attorneys for the governor. The attorney general found no merit in that argument.

“(T)he mere presence of an attorney in a meeting is insufficient to justify (withholding of the record),” Luke wrote. “Based on our review, disclosure of the redacted entries would not reveal that privileged communications were involved or, more specifically, the substance of any confidential attorney-client discussions.”

As a candidate, Rauner had pledged to be open and transparent. Neither the governor nor a spokesman could be reached for immediate comment on Wednesday.

Read the lawsuit here.

Read the AG's decision here.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com



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