The Illinois Attorney General recently told the village it needs to further explain why it denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by local man Jon Kubricht last December.
In a letter dated Jan. 21, the Office of the Attorney General determined that “further inquiry is warranted with regard” to the denial of Kubricht’s request. Last month, Kubricht asked the village for copies of blueprints for a building at 7321 Madison. This wasn’t his first request, and it wasn’t the village’s first rebuff.
In April 2008, Kubricht asked the village for blueprints of that building for each of the years spanning 2005 and 2009. Mayor Anthony Calderone instructed Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz not to make copies, but he agreed to allow Kubricht to view the blueprints at village hall.
Kubricht was not appeased, but Calderone refused to budge, so the dispute ended up in court. Kubricht filed a lawsuit against Calderone in June 2009, seeking copies of the blueprints and attorneys fees, but lost.
“The judge took two minutes and ruled in their favor,” Kubricht said.
“Everyone I spoke to from a [legal] perspective, their understanding was that I was entitled to those documents,” he added.
“The reality is Mr. Kubricht asked for something … and the documents he was requesting were exempt,” said Village Administrator Tim Gillian.
The blueprints Kubricht wants detail the metamorphosis of the former Krader Wolf furniture building into what are now Healy’s Westend and Cocina Lobos bar and restaurant. The building is partially owned by Mark Hosty, commissioner of Public Health and Safety.
Calderone refused to give Kubricht copies of the blueprints because the building is privately owned and because disclosure “would compromise security,” which Calderone’s attorneys successfully argued in the lawsuit. He also told the Forest Park Review in 2009 that copyright infringement was an issue.
Kubricht said that was all irrelevant because the village was already disclosing the blueprints by allowing him to view them. He also said he needed copies.
The Review e-mailed Calderone, inquiring why he allowed this, but he did not answer the question.
“I was trying to appease [Kubricht],” Moritz said. “I can’t tell you why the mayor let him look at the blueprints.”
Recent changes to the state’s FOIA laws now give Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office the power to review denied requests before the issues end up in court.
So rather than appeal the 2009 decision – an endeavor Kubricht claims he could not afford at the time – he said his attorney advised him to resubmit the same request to the village. If denied, Kubricht’s attorney said he could reach out to Madigan’s office, which he did.
But when the Review called Madigan’s office, a representative said he wasn’t aware that the denied FOIA request Kubricht wanted the attorney general to review was identical to another that a judge had ruled against. This, he said, could lead to issue preclusion – a decision that has been reached subsequent to litigation and cannot be relitigated if the same parties are involved.
“I’m assuming they’ll agree,” Moritz said of the attorney general’s office. “I’ll send them the judge’s decision from the last request.”
Gillian also said Kubricht had recently submitted “over 50” FOIA requests that took village employees days to fill.
Both said they were not sure why Kubricht wants the blueprints for Hosty’s building and the other documents.
“Everybody on our staff has been forced to have some role in this,” Gillian said. Everybody is trying to figure out what the motivation is, what he’s actually seeking.”
Kubricht said he wants to see if the building’s owners had the necessary permits for the remodeling they did to the building. He was planning to run for commissioner, but was removed from the ballot because of flaws in his candidate’s paperwork. Moritz and Calderone constituted two-thirds of the three-member board that voted to bump his name from the ballot. He can still run as a write-in candidate though.
Last week Calderone, Gillian and Moritz were all unaware of the attorney general’s letter prior to contact from the Review for comment.
Calderone e-mailed the following: “I have not received any communication from the attorney general’s office requesting that I elaborate on the village’s decision to deny Mr. Kubricht’s request. If I receive such request from the attorney general’s office, I will make appropriate analysis and response.”