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Monday, June 6, 2016

Willful and Intentional Failure to Comply with FOIA Requires Actual Evidence

An Illinois court recently addressed a complaint against the Village of Prairie Grove alleging the Village willfully and intentionally failed to comply with FOIA in Puryear v. Village of River Grove, 2016 IL App(2d) 150378-U (May 16, 2016).  The court ruled in favor of the Village in this case, finding no evidence of bad faith or willfulness.

Plaintiff was issued a citation for not wearing a seatbelt during a traffic stop.  He then filed a FOIA request with the Village seeking among other things, documents, audio, and video related to the citation and stop.  The Village responded by producing the patrol log, a copy of the citation, the officer’s handwritten notes, and a picture. It did not produce any video, stating that no video or audio was available at the time due to a software malfunction.  Plaintiff then submitted a second FOIA request, seeking documents relating to the malfunction.  The following day, Plaintiff submitted a third FOIA request, seeking any and all video and audio from any police vehicles driven by the Officer who stopped him for the 10 days before and 10 days after he was issued the citation.  The Village responded to both requests, providing emails regarding the malfunction, and five DVDs of video of stops for the period claimed.  One of the DVDs contained a video of the stop in which Plaintiff was issued the citation.

Plaintiff then filed a FOIA complaint against the Village alleging that it willfully and intentionally failed to comply with FOIA when it failed to produce the video of his stop in response to his first FOIA request.  The circuit court ruled in favor of the Village, and Plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with the circuit court, finding no evidence to indicate bad faith or willfulness on the Village's part when it responded to all three FOIA requests. The court noted that the Plaintiff’s only witness was himself, and he failed to show any evidence to substantiate his claims that the Village fabricated the equipment malfunction.  

Post Authored by Erin Baker, Ancel Glink


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