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Daily Journal
     March 11, 2020      #42-71 KDJ
 

Board settles FOIA lawsuit for $6,000 

By Chris Breach
cbreach@daily-journal.com


KANKAKEE — The Kankakee County Board agreed to settle a lawsuit in a case involving a FOIA request at its meeting on Tuesday. The board voted unanimously to pay a settlement of $6,000.

The case involved a Freedom of Information Act request by Mark Parts, who is the plaintiff in the case, regarding an incident at the Jerome Combs Detention Center in February 2019.

Parts, of Chicago, filed a FOIA on March 6, 2019, for “any video, audio, records, incident reports, interviews, statements, investigative files or other materials concerning an incident at Kankakee County Jail involving injury to William Mulligan on B pod overnight from February 24-25, 2019,” according to court documents.

In Parts’ FOIA request he also wrote, “It is my understanding that Mr. Mulligan was in control of officers when he was caused to fall and sustain injuries to his head and his back, resulting in his having to be transported out for medical care,” according to court records.

Kankakee County Chief Deputy Ken McCabe is the FOIA officer for the county, and the Kankakee County Sheriff’s office is the defendant in the case. The request wasn’t responded to by the five-day statutory deadline or at all, according to Parks’ lawsuit. Parks sent a follow-up email on April 2, 2019, to check on the status of the response.

“Please inform me of the status of the response to this FOIA request. It was sent nearly a month ago and the response is long overdue,” Parks wrote in his email, according to court documents.

“The link [on the sheriff’s website] was not functioning at the time, so the FOIA did not go through,” board chairman Andy Wheeler said. “In subsequent attempts to get the FOIA responded to, it fell outside of the time frame. Instead of the litigant going to the PAC, the public access counselor with the attorney general, it went right to a lawsuit.”

Wheeler said it was unfortunate that the FOIA request wasn’t responded to in time.

“As part of the negotiation, it was agreed that they wanted damages,” Wheeler said. “It started at one end, and we started at another end and we met in an area in the middle. It was recommended by outside counsel that we settle for $6,000 in this matter.”

Wheeler said it’s unfortunate the board has to settle for this amount.

“There would be more costs fighting this,” he said.

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Christopher Breach
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