APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT
540 N.E.2d 11, 184 Ill. App. 3d 28, 132 Ill. Dec. 595 1989.IL.866
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Woodford County; the Hon. Richard M. Baner, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court. LUND and KNECHT, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCCULLOUGH
Plaintiff appeals a trial court order which denied his complaint for an injunction, declaratory judgment, and attorney fees pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 116, par. 201 et seq.). The trial court determined that requests plaintiff made for answers to questions concerning legal expenses incurred in connection with an ongoing litigation were not requests for documents covered by the Act. The trial court also determined no documents or records had been withheld from plaintiff. Plaintiff appeals, arguing his requests were in proper form and defendants violated the Act by withholding three billing statements.
On April 27, 1987, plaintiff sent a letter to Virginia Garrels, Palestine Township clerk, requesting the following questions be placed on the next township board meeting agenda: (1) does the road commissioner have authority to incur legal expenses; (2) who authorized the hiring of Richard Leiken in the township suit against Kenyon; (3) if authorized, when was it authorized; (4) at what rate and expense is the township board paying Leiken; and (5) is the board backing the road commissioner in its injunction action. Plaintiff stated he would appreciate answers to his questions in a return letter.
On January 25, 1988, plaintiff directed a letter to Pete Remmert, the Palestine Township supervisor. The letter stated that pursuant to the Act, plaintiff would like answers to the following questions: (1) at what rate is the road district incurring legal expenses in its lawsuit against him; (2) how much expense has accrued up to this date; (3) how much has been paid; and (4) to whom have payments been made. Plaintiff added he was willing to pay reasonable costs of copying any of the requested information. Remmert responded on February 9, 1988, telling plaintiff the information he wanted was kept by Garrels, who maintained the township records and books.
On February 19, 1988, plaintiff delivered a letter to Garrels noting it was his second request under the Act for information concerning the amount of money expended by the township in its lawsuit against him. On March 2, 1988, Garrels sent copies of payment vouchers for legal services. In a letter she stated Dave Thompson, the road commissioner, had advised her that the bills for legal services did not contain the hours worked, only the amounts due.
On March 7, 1988, plaintiff sent a letter to Thompson which stated he was requesting access to the information related to his lawsuit with Palestine Township. Plaintiff specifically wanted: (1) copies of contracts between the township or road district and Leiken or his firm; (2) if contracts did not exist, the amount Thompson had authorized to be paid Leiken on an hourly basis; (3) Leiken's rate for in-and out-of-court services, if they differed; (4) the number of hours Leiken had worked on the case as of the date of the letter; and (5) copies of any contracts between Montgomery Township and Palestine Township in 1987. Plaintiff stated he wanted copies of actual records, not "made up" documents. Plaintiff also stated he was willing to pay reasonable costs of copying.
On March 17, 1988, Thompson replied to plaintiff's letter. He stated no written contract with Leiken existed, he had supplied the amounts paid to Leiken, and felt answers to other questions relating to fees and hours should be privileged. Thompson enclosed copies of contracts in effect in 1987 between Palestine and Montgomery Townships.
Plaintiff filed suit on April 20, 1988. In his complaint, he stated he wanted to know the particular manner in which Palestine Township officials were spending money in the lawsuit involving him. Plaintiff alleged Thompson refused to provide all the records and bills related to fees and hours of Leiken's employment. Plaintiff asked for an injunction, declaration that defendants' action had violated the Act, and attorney fees.
In their answer, defendants admitted Garrels made a statement alleged in her March 2, 1987, letter, noted plaintiff was provided with pay vouchers providing the amounts paid as fees, and defendants attached copies of the bills submitted to Thompson by Leiken. Defendants denied ...