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Crime

ATTN Public Officials: Details on how to get sued over public records requests

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By JM Kraft | Edgar County Watchdogs

Here are some ways to invite a lawsuit for violating the Freedom of Information Act:

  • Post on Facebook how you will skin a cat, wrap it in an FOIA request and roast it in a bonfire (here)
  • Post a sign on the door stating you will provide no copies of anything pertaining to the Village until further notice (here)
  • Take a photo of shredded papers and brag to shredding evidence (here)
  • Post a photo of a fire and tell an FOIA requester that is what happened to his FOIA request (here)
  • Ignore FOIA requests like they never even happened (here)
  • Tell the Board they don’t have to comply and try to prove the requester is not media and not a nonprofit (here)
  • Try to make the requester pay someone else’s illegal invoice before giving up the requested records (here)
  • Say you cannot release the record when your real intent is to wait it out until after the election (here)
  • Miss the deadline, try and get a court to seal the records, provide inapplicable exemptions (here)
  • Fail to provide all the records while not considering a whistleblower may have provided them unofficially prior to the FOIA request (here)
  • Claim security video is exempt, claim employee key-card building entry data is exempt (here)
  • Answer late, blame it on the state budget impasse (here)
  • Deny records, then spend $480,000 fighting in court, only to lose (here)
  • Say the records don’t exist, then give those same records to a different FOIA requester (here)
  • Ignore FOIA requests and tell people at a TOI Conference your mission is to prove the watchdogs are not media, then use taxpayer funds to try and subpoena their documents from them, and lose twice (here)
  • Extend the deadline twice, then post a photo of a USB drive on Facebook while asking how many viruses you can fit on it before giving it back to the FOIA requester (here and here)
  • Deny the township has the video, then show up in court a couple of weeks later with a copy of that video for someone else (FOIA lawsuit forthcoming)
  • Hire an attorney that invokes unduly burdensome exemption routinely but fails to offer any chance to narrow the request or claims it is impossible to narrow and ignores their obligation to offer the chance for the requester to narrow the request. (FOIA lawsuit forthcoming)
  • Claim the requested records belong to someone else, lose the lawsuit, pay out $500,000 for FOIA requester’s attorney fees (here).
  • First ignore the FOIA request, then tell the requester they have to come in to view the records in person, then send a letter saying you won’t provide any copies and demand they come to a village meeting, then call them on the phone and say you won’t give them anything no matter what (here and here).
  • Extend the FOIA request, then deny it claiming the Judicial Circuit owns it – even though the Sheriff Dept owns it and the AG forced disclosure on similar records from the same Sheriff just three years earlier (here).

If anyone else has experienced any creative ways to invite an FOIA lawsuit, please send them to us and we will update this article.

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Crime

New Lenox Police Arrest Harvey Juvenile For Murder

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By

WJOL

On Thursday, June 25th 2020, the New Lenox Police Department obtained an arrest warrant for a 16 year-old male juvenile from Harvey. The warrant, for two counts of First Degree Murder, stems from a shooting that occurred on May 11, 2020, at the Circle K Gas Station, located at 471 Nelson Road, New Lenox, Illinois, in which the victim, 19 year-old Charles Baird, a New Lenox resident, was shot during an attempt to steal his vehicle.

Through the course of the investigation, it was learned that on May 11th, at approximately 12:00 AM, a Hyundai Santa Fe stolen from Lockport on May 9th, arrived at the Circle K gas station and pulled up at a pump across from Baird’s vehicle. While Baird was still inside the gas station, an occupant of the vehicle attempted to open a door of his Subaru. The vehicle was locked and the subject returned to the stolen Santa Fe. Baird then exited the gas station and was approached by a second subject who was pointing a handgun at him. After a brief exchange of words, Baird turned and began to run. The offender ran after Baird and fired one shot which struck Baird in the back. The offender ran back to the Santa Fe and fled the area. NLPD officers arrived on scene and located Baird inside the gas station. Baird was transported to Silver Cross Hospital. Baird eventually was transferred to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn and ultimately died from his injuries on May 13th.

The Santa Fe used in this homicide was later recovered after being involved in a car crash in Dolton, Illinois, on May 15th. After an exhaustive investigation, sufficient evidence was discovered to identify a juvenile offender that was being held at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center on unrelated charges.

On June 25, 2020, the NLPD learned that the juvenile offender in this homicide was being released. The juvenile was taken into custody by NLPD Investigators upon his release and
transported to the NLPD. Evidence was presented to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and two felony charges of First Degree Murder against the juvenile offender were approved. The juvenile was transferred to the River Valley Juvenile Detention Center. Bond has been set at $2,500,000.00.

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Crime

Opinion: Politicians Behaving Badly: DuPage Township Trustee Dennis Raga Edition

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Bolingbrook Politics will be conducting ongoing exposes of local politicians and examining the full facts unencumbered by either political party. We must seek elected officials who are the best among us to represent our values and interests instead of their own. We must examine and understand these individuals who seek to represent us in an elected capacity at all levels of government. Unfortunately many continue to fall very short of the high bar that should be expected.
As a reminder, this is an opinion piece.

The first of many exposes will be DuPage Township Trustee Dennis Raga.

Dennis Raga
Dennis Raga DuPage Township Trustee

Dennis Raga was appointed as a DuPage Township Trustee in 2016. This was under protest by Bill Mayer who had wanted a more qualified candidate to serve for the open seat. However, allegedly Village of Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar had pressured the then Supervisor to appoint Dennis Raga as he was part of the Mayor’s inner circle. Roger Claar had allegedly stated to Bill Mayer that if Raga was not appointed to the position then the DuPage Township slate of candidates would not be provided any support or be provided any access to the election headquarters. Given the upcoming election, Bill Mayer had yielded to the Mayor’s demand and appointed Dennis Raga to the position.

The following excerpts have been attained from police records about Dennis Raga’s alleged behavior between December 2016 and October 2018.

On December 12th, 2016 Dennis Raga allegedly stated “Get out of my way” and had allegedly pushed an unnamed woman forcefully in the chest with an open right hand with such strength that she had been knocked back a few steps. (page 17 of FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60)

On February 21st, 2017 Raga had allegedly threatened to strike this unnamed woman with a beer bottle. (page 17 FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60)

“earlier this morning she went to the
Will County court house to file for an
order of protection”

On June 22nd, 2017 Dennis Raga according to alleged first-hand accounts (page 12 of FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60) had allegedly assaulted and threatened to kill an unnamed woman who had to seek an order of protection against him. The abused had indicated to police that Raga had a history of domestic abuse against her and she feared retaliation. Stating she had been threatened and struck multiple times in the past and has filed multiple police reports documenting the events. (She also) relayed that (he) has a gun collection and that she is scared for her well-being. It was also stated that earlier that morning she went to the Will county courthouse to file for an order of protection and would like to go back to their home but is afraid that (he) may be there or show up while she is there.

On April 19th, 2018, 45-year-old DuPage Township Dennis Raga had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Shortly after midnight, after drinking all day, he had driven his black Hummer onto Derbyshire Lane. Bolingbrook officer James Brock had stopped the politician at 12:33 a.m. and placed Dennis Raga under arrest for drunken driving. (page 6 of FOIA Part 5 – pages 121 to 130

A request for the arrest video had been made, however, it had been denied on multiple occasions by Fran Miller, FOIA Officer for Bolingbrook. The State of Illinois had intervened providing a stinging rebuke to the Village of Bolingbrook handling of the request and they were finally forced to release the arrest video of Dennis Raga.

Instead of releasing the entire video of the alleged incident, the Village of Bolingbrook only released a heavily redacted video of the arrest. Out of a 20 min 53-sec video, roughly 12 mins and 47 seconds had been redacted.

The following are the time sections of video that have been redacted.

  • 00:15:56 to 00:16:03  – 7 seconds
  • 00:16:35 to 00:16:43  – 8 seconds
  • 00:17:50 to 00:18:03  – 13 seconds
  • 00:18:38 to 00:18:44  – 6 seconds
  • 00:18:49 to 00:19:01  – 12 seconds
  • 00:19:49 to 00:20:13  – 24 seconds
  • 00:20:25 to 00:21:24  – 59 seconds
  • 00:21:56 to 00:22:03  – 7 seconds
  • 00:22:33 to 00:22:44  – 11 seconds
  • 00:22:50 to 00:24:51  – 121 second
  • 00:24:58 to 00:25:06  – 8 seconds
  • 00:25:12 to 00:26:30  – 78 seconds
  • 00:26:39 to 00:26:44  – 5 seconds
  • 00:27:32 to 00:27:52  – 20 seconds
  • 00:28:05 to 00:33:43  – 338 seconds
  • 00:34:30 — the audio was redacted

Dennis Raga was sentenced to alcoholism treatment and ordered to pay a fine totaling $1,600 on 10/25/2018. You can view the redacted video above.

Since Dupage Township Trustee Dennis Raga had according to police reports allegedly threatened to kill, driven drunk and allegedly assaulted an unnamed woman. The question remains why was the Village of Bolingbrook protecting his video? As an elected official the electorate has the right to understand the character of their elected officials. Secondly, given the character that has been displayed by this public servant why haven’t the people demanded him to resign? Certainly, he is not the best we can do. And lastly, if this is the caliber of politicians put forth by the Mayor of Bolingbrook what else is hiding?

FOIA Part 1 – pages 5 to 30

DennisRagaFOIA_p1

FOIA Part 2 – pages 31 to 60

DennisRagaFOIA_p2-1

FOIA Part 3 – pages 61 to 90

DennisRagaFOIA_p3pdf

FOIA Part 4 – pages 91 to 120

DennisRagaFOIA_p4pdf

FOIA Part 5 – pages 121 to 130

DennisRagaFOIA_p5pdf

This is an opinion piece

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Business

Investigation underway into South Suburban Black Chamber

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By Rex Robinson and Barrington M. Salmon | The Times Weekly

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk held a press conference at City Hall on June 9 to defend his actions following a protest on May 31 and the scuffle he got into with two brothers on Jefferson Street. A number of O’Dekirk’s supporters also came to the podium to defend the mayor during that press conference.

One of those supporters was Cornel Darden, who introduced himself as the President and CEO of the South Suburban Black Chamber of Commerce.

“I support the mayor wholeheartedly,” Darden said. “We have a great mayor here in our city and I’m very proud to have worked with our mayor to get a lot of things done as far as the black business community is concerned.”

On Friday, three Joliet faith leaders – Bishop Steven Evans, Pastor Warren Dorris, and Pastor Herbert Brooks – held a press conference and showed a video from 20-plus years ago of O’Dekirk when he was a police officer and in it, O’Dekirk, according to a press release, is seen “aggressively assaulting a handcuffed black man and then “tackling a Hispanic man from behind.”

Included in the pastors’ announcement prior to the press conference is a statement about Darden. It reads as follows: “…during the Mayor’s Tuesday press conference, he called on character witnesses, including Cornel Darden, who has made continued claims of being the president of the South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce. That claim has been denounced by the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce. The state chamber issued a statement accusing Darden of ‘fraudulently accessing funds’ and accusing O’Dekirk of covering up the investigation.”

The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce posted the following statement about Darden on social media last week: “Cornel Darden was terminated from the South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce. Cornel Darden continued to falsely operate a Chamber using the South Suburban name and EIN number. He has fraudulently accessed funds from our existing bank account and opened unauthorized bank accounts. In addition, he has collected sponsorships and membership dues without the consent of the Board of Directors after his termination. In addition to these fraudulent acts, Cornel Darden went on to illegally appoint his own board of directors to fraudulently operate a nonprofit that he was terminated from.

“The South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce immediately filed a police report with the city of Joliet, however, we feel that because of Darden’s strong ties to Mayor O’Dekirk, our claims were never investigated. No official board member of the South Suburban Region Black Chamber of Commerce or Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce was interviewed after the initial complaint was filed.

“Cornel Darden is not affiliated with the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce or the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We are not in support of Cornel Darden and we do not support any of his actions. The Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce does not support the actions of Mayor O’Dekirk that transpired during a peaceful protest we feel that the violent actions of O’Dekirk are unbefitting of a Mayor.”

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