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There is yet another lawsuit against City officials, and this one has arisen in-house. On May 7. City Clerk Devon Reid sued the City of Evanston, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Corporation Counsel Michelle Masoncup in a dispute over the handling of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
As City Clerk, Mr. Reid is the “custodian and keeper of all Evanston’s records,” the complaint states, and, as the appointed FOIA officer for the City, he has statutory responsibilities such as issuing responses under the FOIA and creating files to retain the responses and other communications relating to each FOIA request.
The City, however, through Ms. Masoncup and Mr. Bobkiewicz in their official capacities, produced body-worn camera footage in response to FOI requests without giving copies to the Clerk’s office, which, Mr. Reid alleges, circumvents his authority and responsibility as the City’s FOIA officer.
The complaint also alleges that, before Mr. Reid was elected, the practice was to give such copies to the Clerk’s office.
Mr. Bobkiewicz and Ms. Masoncup have also refused to give the Clerk unredacted copies of responses to certain FOI requests, the complaint alleges, because to provide them to the Clerk’s office would violate attorney-client privilege.
Mr. Reid’s complaint disputes that position, alleging that, as an officer of the City, which is Ms. Masoncup’s client, the privilege extends to him and that his obtaining unredacted copies of these documents would not waive the City’s attorney-client privilege.
As City Clerk, Mr. Reid is asking for “declaratory” relief, that is, a judgment from the Court that his position on both counts is correct. He is also asking that the City pay his attorney fees.
Ms. Masoncup told the RoundTable, “The City of Evanston operates within the statutory limitations established by the Illinois Body-Worn Camera Act and the Illinois Freedom of Information Act with respect to which individuals may review the body worn camera footage. In addition, the attorney-client privilege is fundamental to the lawyer-client relationship. The City believes that the City Clerk cannot be the arbitrator of whether or not an individual has privacy rights with respect to these issues.”
Ms. Masoncup also said the City has hired not outside counsel to defend the case.
As originally written, this article omitted mention of the City of Evanston as party to the lawsuit. It also stated that the City had hired outside counsel, but that, as of May 16, is not the case.