Considering the time lapse involved, a number of readers recently reached out to ask how my FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) denial battle with the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office is going. If you recall, that office provided 256 pages of completely redacted sexual harassment complaints against former prosecutor Alex Bederka.
The answer to that simple question is, Not well!
Despite filing the kind of appeal some local lawyers said blew KCSAO Civil Division head Joe Lulves’ denial argument completely out of the water, the Attorney General’s Office insistent response to any appeal inquiry on my part is to “be patient.”
You’d think the fact that Lulves said – in print – he wouldn’t turn the documents over regardless of any AG ruling would’ve fired them up a bit. But no! Apparently, the AG’s office harbors the most serene attorneys I’ve ever encountered.
To wit, the FOIA denial appeal process started way back in October of 2018, but there’s has been absolutely no movement since then.
So, I reached out to the Attorney General’s Office on February 6 only to be told they were working on it and I should be patient. Then they provided that very same “advice” on May 21. Out of frustration, I repeatedly contacted their Senior Press Secretary Annie Thompson only to be summarily ignored along the lines of Alex Forrest (look it up).
According to some of her statewide elected office press peers, Ms. Thompson tends to approach her job with a head-in-the-sand methodology. I tried to explain that, especially in cases like this one, justice delayed is justice denied, but that argument fell on deaf ears.
And it’s justice denied because even if the Public Access Counselor ruled in my favor this very day, with State’s Attorney Joe McMahon’s full support, Lulves would simply refuse to turn over the documents. That would necessitate seeking a court order to force the KCSAO to comply, and the ensuing legal maneuvering could easily delay the process for six months to a year.
Then, even when the courts inevitably uphold the AG’s ruling, Lulves will simply file an appeal, drawing out the process for at least another six months which renders the entire effort moot by putting it past the November 2020 election.
At that point McMahon, or whomever else might run for that office, won’t have to face the voter music.
And speaking of “whomever else might run,” word on the street is, chief felony prosecutor, Bill Engerman, will run for McMahon’s position if Joe finally decides he’s had enough.
You remember Bill! He’s the one who was fired from the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office for “inappropriate contact” with female staffers. But when DeKalb Judge Robbin Stuckert begged McMahon to hire Engerman, despite being aware of his track record, he did just that.
Then Engerman became part of the KCSAO cabal known as the “Welcoming Committee,” a group of male prosecutors that held a competition to see who would be the first one to “date” the most recently hired female prosecutors. Now that Engerman is married and in a position of power, his claim to fame is berating and belittling those same female prosecutors to the point where they quit.
And, despite those closeted skeletons, Engerman has the nerve to consider a State’s Attorney run because he knows that neither the local press nor the AG will hold that office accountable for anything.
Considering my past successes with FOIA appeals, some high-ranking elected officials have concluded that this sudden sad turn of events is the result of McMahon’s suddenly cozy relationship with Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Raoul and McMahon were originally at odds over the Cook County Jason Van Dyke sentencing, but never one to miss a politically expedient turn, when Raoul questioned that short seven-year sentence, McMahon suddenly backtracked on his press conference commentary and filed a petition with the Illinois Supreme Court to extend it.
Generally, I’m not one to buy into conspiracy theories if for no other reason that elected officials aren’t smart enough or they can’t keep their mouths shut long enough to pull it off. But this one of those rare cases where that political relationship could explain why I’m suddenly the forgotten stepchild.
So, yes! Whether it’s an intentional act or simply a case of the AG’s office not giving a bleep about an independent journalist, Kwame Raoul is protecting sexual predators. And that sucks.
Needless to say, I will keep up the fight to get those documents even if it means suing the Attorney General himself. On this, the 13th anniversary of my very first column for the Geneva, St. Charles, and Batavia Suns, investigative journalism still means something.