Pappas Issues FOIAs to 63 Taxing Agencies in Demand for Debt Data
Agencies Have Five Business Days to Respond
CHICAGO, May 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said today her office has sent Freedom of Information demands to 63 local units of government across the county which have failed to provide their latest financial information, including their total debt.
“We are taking this extraordinary step of using the FOIA provision because government may not flout the law any more than an individual,” Pappas said. “If anything, government should set the example in obeying the law.”
Under Cook County’s Debt Disclosure Ordinance, passed by the County Board at Pappas’ request, local taxing districts should have uploaded their 2011 debt and other financial data to Pappas’ website by the last Tuesday in December. To date, 489 of 553 primary taxing districts had complied but 63 had not.
“This Office hereby requests a full, complete, unabridged and unedited copy of (your) most recent audited financial statement,” the Treasurer’s letter to the 63 non-compliant districts said, noting that the recipients had five business days to respond.
Pappas earlier reported that data from the compliant districts puts the known collective debt of governments in Cook County for 2011 at about $140 billion. Taxpayers can visit the Treasurer’s website, cookcountytreasurer.com, or the County’s new portal, cookcountypropertyinfo.com, to see the information, including from the districts that claim part of their own property-tax payments.
“As a matter of transparency and as a matter of law, these non-compliant agencies should send us their data so that the people can see how much their local governments owe, and we all can see the total debt across Cook County,” Pappas said.
Under the state of Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act, the taxing districts have five business days to respond to the FOIA request. Pappas said that whether a district responds to the letter or not, it will be considered non-compliant with the County law until it uploads its data to her website. Failure of a taxing district to respond appropriately to a FOIA request would be regarded as a denial which could be appealed to the Office of the Illinois Attorney General for review. A denial could result in civil suits for injunctive or declarative relief against the district and make it liable for attorney’s fees and civil penalties up to $5,000.
The following taxing districts received FOIA requests:
Addison Creek River Conservancy District, Northlake.
Chicago Heights Park District.
City of Burbank.
Clyde Park District, Cicero.
Crawford Countryside Sanitary District, Matteson.
Central Stickney Sanitary District, Chicago.
Dixmoor Public Library District.
Dolton Public Library District.
Ford Heights Public Library District.
Forest River Sanitary District, Mt. Prospect.
Forest View Fire Protection District.
Franklin Park Library District.
Harvey Public Library District.
High School District 209, Maywood.
Hometown Fire Protection District.
Justice Park District.
Kimber Trail Sanitary District, Palos Park.
Lighthouse Park District of Evanston.
Lincolnway High School 210.
Markham Park District.
Maywood Park District.
Miller Woods Fire Protection District, Steger.
Niles Public Library District.
Northfield Woods Sanitary District, Glenview.
Oak Meadow Sanitary District, Des Plaines.
Phoenix Public Library District.
Pleasantdale Park District, Burr Ridge.
Plum Grove Countryside Park District, Palatine.
Plum Grove Estates Sanitary District, Palatine.
Posen Park District.
Posen Public Library District.
Riverdale Park District.
Riverside Lawn Fire District.
Robbins Park District.
Roberts Park Fire Protection District, Hickory Hills/Justice.
Roselle Fire Protection District.
South Palos Township Sanitary District, Palos Park.
South Stickney Sanitary District Burbank.
School District 149, Dolton/Calumet City.
School District 88, Bellwood.
Sunnycrest Fire Protection District, Flossmoor.
Southwest Home Equity Assurance 1, Chicago.
Thorntown Township High School 205.
Township of New Trier.
Union Drainage District No. 1, Deerfield.
Village of South Chicago Heights.
Village of Barrington Hills.
Village of Marrionette Park.
Village of Burnham.
Village of Calumet Park.
Village of Dixmoor.
Village of East Hazelcrest.
Village of Evergreen Park.
Village of Ford Heights.
Village of Maywood.
Village of McCook.
Village of Phoenix.
Village of Robbins.
Village of Saul Village.
Village of Stone Park.
Village of University Park.
Westdale Park District, Melrose Park.
Woodley Road Sanitary District, Winnetka.
SOURCE Cook County Treasurer’s Office