WBEZ and the Better Government Association on Friday sued the southwest suburban village of Lyons to make public federal subpoenas and search warrants it received as part of an ongoing corruption investigation.
Both organizations sought the records through the state Freedom of Information Act but were denied any documents in a blanket, unsigned rejection. The denial didn’t cite any legal exemptions.
In late September, federal agents conducted “authorized law enforcement activity” at the village halls in Lyons and neighboring McCook and also “conducted investigative activity” at the village hall in nearby Summit. Those moves followed a raid of the Springfield and Cicero offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval. All three towns are in Sandoval’s district.
McCook officials similarly have blacked out much of the information from the search warrant it received as part of the raid at its village hall on Sept. 26. WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times have sued McCook to get the unredacted document.
Following the raids, both WBEZ and the BGA requested any subpoenas, search warrants or other information Lyons officials received from federal investigators.
In its denial on Oct. 10, an attorney representing Lyons responded by forwarding a statement from the town’s unnamed “F.O.I.A officer” that denied the request, stating “the government has requested the village of Lyons provide no information concerning this matter.”
“Restraints on access to information, to the extent permitted by FOIA, are limited exceptions to the principle that the people of this state have a right to full disclosure of information relating to the decisions, policies, procedures, rules, standards, and other aspects of government activity that affect the conduct of government and the lives of the people,” states the lawsuit, which was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by attorney Matt Topic.
John Chase is the director of investigations at the Better Government Association. Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter at WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter at @dmihalopoulos.