If FOIA wasn’t already broken in Forest Park, it is now.
To recap, FOIA or “Freedom of Information Act,” is a legal mechanism that allows public access to information retained by governmental agencies. One simply makes a written request and if the information is not of a sensitive nature and specifically restricted by law, it is to be handed over.
Like most people, I learned about Gaetano’s restaurant fence/addition and the “no harm, no foul” comment by Village Administrator Tim Gillian in the October Forest Park Review article. I was curious how the construction process went from a fence to a full-blown addition so I FOIAed “all” of the construction related documents from last January to the present.
I received the reports from the June 15 zoning hearing and the July 13 council meeting approving the fence, a couple permit applications and a set of drawings created Sept. 17, 2009, well after the construction was completed.
Conspicuously missing were any inspection reports or other communications from the building department. This was extremely unusual and something was not right but what was I to do? It’s a lengthy and time-consuming process to contest the issue so I let it go.
Not long after, Gaetano’s illegal addition came before the zoning board of appeals for zoning relief and was rejected amidst a cloud of questions about how the village allowed the construction to occur. The heat was on.
On Dec. 16 another article about Gaetano’s appeared in the Review. This one cited some mysterious and apparently meaningless construction documents I did not receive. What’s this? Why did I not get these? Why are they now showing them to the Review?
I contacted the reporter, Josh Adams, and asked if I could see the additional documents. Mr. Adams stated that he only viewed them on a visit to village hall and did not get copies.
As I said in the beginning, If FOIA wasn’t already broken in Forest Park, it is now. Steve Backman gets one set of documents, Mr. Adams, another. I guess everything from village hall is selectively edited and we will never get the truth, the whole truth and …