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08/23/94 COPLEY PRESS v. CITY SPRINGFIELD

August 23, 1994

THE COPLEY PRESS, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, PUBLISHER OF THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, AND LONG NINE, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, AND A UNIT OF THE MID-WEST FAMILY BROADCAST GROUP, D/B/A WMAY, WNNS, AND WOLZ RADIO STATIONS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, AN ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, AND THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES, AND POLICE BENEVOLENT AND PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION UNIT # 5, INTERVENOR.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 93CH126. Honorable Richard J. Cadagin, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected September 30, 1994. Released for Publication October 5, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1994.

Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, P.j., Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Concurring, Honorable Frederick S. Green, J., Specially Concurring.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mccullough

PRESIDING JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Copley Press, Inc. (Copley Press), and other media organizations requested that the City of Springfield (City) and the Illinois State Police (State Police) release the file and summary compiled by the State Police during their investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against former Springfield chief of police Kirk Robinson. These requests were denied on the basis the investigative file was exempt from disclosure. Plaintiffs brought suit under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (Information Act) (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq. (West 1992)) to compel public disclosure of the documents. Unit No. 5 of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association was allowed to intervene. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted defendants' motion and denied plaintiffs' motion. Copley Press, alone, has appealed from that decision.

The events giving rise to the lawsuit began when a civilian employee of the Springfield police department (SPD) brought an internal sexual harassment complaint against the chief of police, Kirk Robinson. When news of the complaint, but not the identity of the complaining employee, became public knowledge, Springfield Mayor Ossie Langfelder immediately requested that the State Police conduct an internal affairs investigation into the alleged conduct attributed to Robinson. The State Police agreed to conduct a completely independent investigation and SPD was directed to cooperate fully and refrain from conducting its own internal affairs investigation.

After a three-month investigation, conducted by two State Police master sergeants, a file in excess of 1,000 pages had been compiled. On April 30, 1993, Terrence W. Gainer, Director of the State Police, provided Mayor Langfelder with a summary of the investigation and a copy of the entire investigative file. After reviewing these documents, Mayor Langfelder asked for and received the resignation of Robinson as chief of police. Upon his resignation, Mayor Langfelderreassigned Robinson to the position of commander in the SPD. The fact of the resignation and demotion were made public by Mayor Langfelder.

After this public announcement, plaintiffs requested that the City release the entire file under the Information Act. The City denied the request citing various exemptions. The same request was then made of the State Police which, likewise, denied the request citing additional exemptions.

After filing suit, the various defendants and intervenor filed answers claiming that the entire report was exempt from disclosure under 12 separate provisions of the Information Act and common law. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

Attached to the motions were several affidavits, including that of Donald Kliment, commander of the Special Services Section (internal affairs) of SPD. His affidavit identified the written SPD policy on internal affairs' investigations, which directed that all files and reports compiled, as well as the identities of complainants and witnesses interviewed, were to be kept confidential.

The affidavit of Mayor Langfelder was also submitted. In it he averred:

"The investigative summary report contains the following information:

(a) the identity of the complainant;

(b) the identities of other witnesses, some of whom were employees of the City of Springfield who were interviewed by the State Police;

(c) a summary of the interview of the complainant;

(d) a summary of other witness ...


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