WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking details from the federal raid last month at the village hall of southwest suburban McCook.
Immediately after the FBI raid on Sept. 26, the news organizations filed requests for copies of the search warrant that agents served in McCook. Such documents routinely are made public by government agencies in response to requests made under the state’s open-records law.
But McCook officials instead blacked out many details from copies of the search warrant that they gave last week to WBEZ and the Sun-Times.
The lawsuit seeks unredacted copies of the warrant. The case was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by attorney Matt Topic, who is representing both WBEZ and the Sun-Times in the matter.
The clerk’s office in McCook referred questions about the newly filed lawsuit to the village attorney, who was not at work Wednesday.
WBEZ also is suing the Illinois Senate for unredacted copies of a search warrant served last month at the Cicero and Springfield offices of powerful Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval.
What little was not redacted from the McCook warrant shows agents wanted to search the offices of the village’s mayor, Jeff Tobolski. He’s a Democrat who also is an elected member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
Records show agents left the village hall with hard drives from Tobolski’s computers and other documents. Tobolski has not commented or appeared publicly since the raid.
On the same day the feds visited McCook, they also raided the municipal offices of nearby Lyons. Officials there have sought more time – until Thursday – to respond to WBEZ’s request for a copy of the search warrant used in Lyons.
Obtaining search warrants and subpoenas through open-records requests often helps the media and others in Illinois to keep track of the federal anti-corruption investigations that frequently touch state government, municipalities, schools and other public, taxpayer-supported agencies.
On Tuesday, WBEZ and the Better Government Association cited a subpoena obtained through an open records request to reveal the FBI’s scrutiny of a lobbying deal between the village of Schiller Park and retired Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski. His Southwest Side home also was raided earlier this year.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter for WBEZ.