By Randy Pierce
As part of his ongoing series of legal actions that have occurred since his dismissal as information technology director for Madison County in early 2020, Rob Dorman of Maryville has filed a legal complaint against its treasurer, Chris Slusser, that includes a demand for production of a document related to that employment termination and a sanction of $5000 for violation of the state’s freedom of information law.
Filed late last month in the third judicial circuit court of Madison County, Dorman is seeking release of an e-mail message connected to what he believes is the use of elected offices for political campaign purposes and which had been requested by Dorman in late March of 2022.
Dorman contends that the e-mail message information, which had been forwarded to Slusser by county board member Mike Babcock was referenced by the treasurer in an early 2017 conversation he had with Madison County Administrator Doug Hulme, who was also terminated as an employee in early 2020.
In the complaint filed by Dorman citing the information he is after, there is a quote about how he and Hulme “were snooping around illegally in email accounts,” an action that the plaintiff in this case has long charged was utilized in bringing about the termination of their employment with the county.
Soon after Dorman had made his request to the county for this information last spring, its Freedom of Information Act officer, Patrick McRae, answered that there were “no responsive documents” pertinent to that request.
At that time, there was an “inadequate” search for the document Dorman is seeking, according to what his complaint charges while also citing an Illinois case law declaration that a government body such as the county “must construe FOIA requests liberally and search those places that are ‘reasonably likely to contain responsive records.’”
Along with mentioning his belief that Slusser “uses multiple email accounts to conduct public business,” Dorman’s complaint continues by charging that the FOIA officer could have asked the treasurer for the information, “yet such action was not even attempted.”
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act as referenced by Dorman which was approved by the state legislature in 1983, allows any individual the right to inspect and copy public government documents, records, meeting minutes and correspondence upon request except that which is exempt for reasons such as personal privacy including what is protected by the federal Health Insurance Affordability and Accountability Act of 1996.
This state law applies to all levels of government considered to be “public bodies” including those at the local level, each of which has to follow a procedure whereby FOIA forms are completed and submitted to them then a response required within a certain timeframe. The terminology related to this regulation is commonly referred to conversationally by usage of the description pronounced “foy-ya” for FOIA in government circles.
The FOIA, as also cited by Dorman, provides that any person “denied access” to information he or she is entitled to see, inspect or copy may file suit for injunctive or declaratory relief as he has done.
Along with seeking the information he has asked for and the aforementioned sanction, Dorman is requesting that his attorney fees be paid for by Slusser and any further relief that the court would determine is justified.