District 308 Re-Asserts Draft Exemption in Response to State Review
Dec 11, 2014 01:58PM
● By Steven Jack
An attorney for Oswego School District 308 continues to assert draft exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act that may allow the district to withhold documents attached to September “Re-election press release” emails sent between the district’s communications director and two school board members.
In a Dec. 10 response to Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office FOIA request for review investigation, District 308 attorney Timothy Hoppa writes that because drafts of press releases contained within the original Sept. 26 FOIA request from Only Oswego were never released to the public the “documents fit squarely within the exemption provided by (Illinois law).”
According to Assistant Attorney General Christopher Boggs, Only Oswego now has seven business days to respond to the district’s response to trigger a further review of the withheld documents.
“We will review the records withheld to determine if the exemption was properly asserted at the time of the FOIA request,” Boggs said.
The district has released all attachments in the FOIA request to the Attorney General’s Office; however, they remain confidential until if and when they are ordered to be released.
The emails, which date back to Sept. 8, contain the subject line, “Re-election press release,” include communications between School Board members Brent Lightfoot, Bill Walsh and district Communications Director Brian Graves.
In the emails, biographical information is exchanged between Graves, Walsh and Lightfoot with Graves asking the board members to edit the documents. Graves also asks Lightfoot for a "statement" that he plans to “polish” before sending out with photos.
Lightfoot and Walsh are both up for re-election in April and both have announced their re-election campaigns.
While the district’s FOIA response includes some attachments, others are missing. The district cited an exemption in the FOIA law that allows drafts of documents to be withheld from requests.
Lightfoot has said he was asked to provide bio information for a story about the election to be written and released by Graves. That story was never sent to members of the press.
Illinois law and school district policy prohibits employees from intentionally taking part in political activity during compensated time.
Despite previous ethical concerns about the exchange from at least two school board members, a board statement from Monday, Dec. 8, said the board believes there was nothing improper about the email exchange. The statement will be read at a School Board meeting Monday, Dec. 15.