In an August 22 article, The Hinsdale Doings reported on Skoda’s claim that he is receiving overwhelming support for the board’s extreme proposal. Via a FOIA request, The Doings verified that the board received 127 emails in support and 94 in opposition. Hardly overwhelming, but yes, a “majority.” However, since the names on the emails provided were redacted, there is no way to know how many individuals actually wrote in support of the board.
D86 parent and taxpayer Yvonne Mayer raised questions about the redaction of information from a public document at the Board meeting on Sept. 8th and was shouted down by Skoda, who insisted that the Constitutional right to privacy superseded the FOIA law, as though the two were at odds.
In her response to Skoda’s conveniently inconsistent application of Constitutional rights in defense of his Board’s lack of transparency, Mayer writes:
Dr. Skoda further asserted that the US Constitutional Right to Petition the government without fear of retribution allows for the names of the authors or recipients of letters from Board members to be redacted. With all due respect, the Right To Petition in the US Constitution does not allow for anonymity in the right to petition the government for a “redress of grievances.”
When the board removes information from an email sent to the board, it is censoring public information. The emails delivered to the board are public records–they belong to me, my husband and all members of the D86 community to review. As Dr. Skoda surely knows, the First Amendment prohibits such censorship absent a compelling reason, such as revealing an impending real estate transaction or private information regarding a minor student. The FOIA laws, as I indicated at the meeting, reflect the considered analysis of the various legislatures as to the proper balance between the overwhelming right of the citizenry to see public records against the limited exceptions permitted by the constitution. Under FOIA laws, and the Constitution, which are entirely consistent, the burden is on the government seeking to censor records to find a specific applicable exception. It is not constitutional or permissible under statutory laws to seek implicit exceptions or ad hoc reasons as to why censorships are inappropriate. Dr. Skoda’s invocation of the right to petition is either a red herring or a misunderstanding of the First Amendment.
Of course citizens have the right to petition, as I am doing now. However, there is not a single legal authority that suggests that selected individuals in the government have the right to censor public records if, in their individual and arbitrary judgment, allowing the public access to public records would impair the right to petition the government. If such a right existed, it would be found in the FOIA statutes passed by all states and the federal government which, on their face, prohibit just this type of censorship. As you know, our state is in trouble because it is filled with petty bureaucrats imposing their views on the citizens of Illinois. Tyranny starts small and this is just such small tyranny.
Censoring public information is what Skoda is defending, yet the new board majority of Skoda, Corcoran, Manley and Casini ran on the promise of complete transparency.
The only thing that is transparent is that the board majority wants to protect those who support them and seeks to intimidate those who do not. They are removing teachers from their classrooms in order to investigate a Facebook “like” of a post linked to a news article in opposition to the board. They have treated with extreme disrespect those parents and community members who have questioned or voiced opposition to their actions in public. And, they have continually prevented negotiations from proceeding in a productive manner.
Ignoring FOIA laws and censoring public documents does not promote transparency. Fear and retribution should not be part of the board’s tactics. Imposing their agenda on a community against its will is wrong. As Mayer wrote, “Tyranny starts small and this is just such small tyranny.”