Northern Star Fighting for 3rd Ward Names

The Northern Star has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain the names of the persons considered by the mayor for the vacated Third Ward alderman spot.

With the questionable past of the 3rd Ward, it is interesting to see that the city has decided to withhold this information from the public, since an aldermanic position is in fact a public position. On Jan. 25, DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen appointed Pam Verbic, a long-time 3rd Ward resident, to the position that had been vacant since Victor Wogen resigned on Dec. 14, 2009. Congratulations to Mrs. Verbic.

The Star, however, is still wondering why the other nine applicants have not been announced, since it is a public position.

The Northern Star filed a Freedom of Information request for the names of the 10 applicants, and, in a letter addressed to the Northern Star, DeKalb City Clerk Steve Kapitan said “City Attorney Norma Guess asserts that this request [for the 10 names] be denied because it constitutes a clear unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Let’s take a look at FOIA.

First, here is the applicable privacy exemption:

Personal information contained within public records, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the individual subjects of the information. “Unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” means the disclosure of information that is highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person and in which the subject’s right to privacy outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information.

Here is the definition of private information:

“Private information” means unique identifiers, including a person’s social security number, driver’s license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, and personal email addresses. Private information also includes home address and personal license plates, except as otherwise provided by law or when compiled without possibility of attribution to any person.

I believe the City of DeKalb is not claiming a privacy exemption but a nonexistent anonymity exemption. This might have worked back when the city manager dealt with FOIA appeals, but the game has changed.

And for the “Oh, the irony!” category:

  • The mayor could have quietly talked to a couple people, then asked the city manager to put his choice on the agenda for appointment as is done routinely for committee/commission/board appointments. Nobody would be asking for names in that case. By bragging that so many people were involved in the selection process, he in effect created an unnecessary public record.

  • This charade of a transparent selection process actually resulted in less information being provided the public than for most mayoral appointments. When I was appointed to a city commission under Mayor Van Buer, I had to submit my resumé for consideration by Council before the vote. It was included in an agenda packet without redactions. You have access to much more personal information about an appointee to the Enviro Commission than you do for the new alderman. Yeah, that makes sense. :-/

  • Question: Did the mayor’s consensus-building via telephone with each alderman constitute violations of the Open Meetings Act? Why or why not?

    4 thoughts on “Northern Star Fighting for 3rd Ward Names”

    1. Lynn, in order to get a taxi license or open a tattoo parlor, you have to submit to a public hearing. Evidently those are much more vital to our municipal welfare than the ho hum appointment of just another alderman.

      How many rebukes from the Public Access Counselor will it take for the city to revisit a whole host of wacky opinions from the city attorney?

      The new FOIA law is a godsend — it will finally give city officials a window into the legal consultation they’ve been getting since Sparrow brought her on board.

    2. It would be a wonderful thing if the Northern Star pushes for Mayor Povlsen to to awarded one of the first fines since the inception of the new FOIA rules. The fact that Mayor Povlsen told each sitting Alderman the names, the fact that he did this via email and by phone and that he won’t make it public stating that some of the applicants didn’t wish it to be public is poppycock!

      Why would these individuals have submitted their names for consideration but not wish to be made public? This is almost as believable as the mayor telling the DC reporter that he wasn’t aware of Mrs. Verbic’s relationship to the school board president Mike Verbic until he interviewed her at Lincoln Inn on a Wednesday morning. Also interesting here is that he made Mrs. Verbic the nominee the next day Thursday. Never met her or knew of her, meets her one morning and nominates her the next day over eight others applicants. Hmmmmm. I wish the mayor could exhibit this decision making ability while presiding over the council. Boy has the council meetings gotten out of control.

      Now, the new fines for violating FOIA is more of a personal ouch whereas the mayor will pay from his own pocket not being able to use taxpayer dollars. Great way to start off your retirement!

    3. Also just thought of this.

      Isn’t is amazing to who the mayor confided in on his nomination for the 3rd Ward replacement but refuses to let the 3rd Ward residents know. I also still believe fully that this whole nomination versus the election of a 3rd Ward replacement was a well orchestrated plot by city staff, mayor, and Victor Wogen.

      If Wogen would have been forced to exit his seat when he first left the ward as a resident the residents of the 3rd Ward would be voting right now and February 2nd for the replacement. Waiting as he did until December was just another way that Wogen could take the rightful process of the 3rd Ward residents to properly pick representation for themselves. It is also appalling that residents (the Aldermen) had the opportunity to say yes or no to the nominee and no one from the actual ward received that opportunity.

      So the 3rd Ward should be considered “Povlsen Ward” or “Ward Povlsen”. This whole process stinks as the residents from the 3rd Ward have really had no proper representation since Wogen took an oath (lots of good the oath is). New taxes, more spending, and changes in city ordinances and codes and really the 3rd Ward has had no proper say in the matter. I find that very shameful Mayor Povlsen and now you refuse to let them know who wished to represent them?

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