Critics, news organizations and attorneys are calling for more transparency from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, especially when it comes to public records.
Since she took office in 2019, Loevy & Loevy has filed 104 lawsuits against the administration for denying access to documents requested through Freedom of Information Act filings, according to Matt Topic, an attorney at the firm and founder of its Freedom of Information Act practice.
The Freedom of Information Act, also known as FOIA, allows government records to be accessed by the public upon written request.
Topic said that of the 104 lawsuits, 54 cases have been resolved, and his team either received a court order saying the city violated the statute, or in 48 of them, the city elected not to fight the case.
In 2018, Lightfoot ran on the idea of “cleaning up city government.” On her stated list of city government reforms from her 2018 campaign was complying with FOIA and ending FOIA abuse.
“It’s particularly bad when you run on that issue and then you don’t do anything to fix it. She has not been personally invested in it at all … It’s just intolerable to have the government violating the law … I’m not aware of anyone in the city government treating this as a problem,” Topic said.
The Lightfoot administration did not return a request for comment from WTTW News.
More recently, the Chicago Tribune recently won a case after the city “fought to keep secret” documents concerning alleged employee misconduct despite the Illinois attorney general agreeing that the documents should be released.
“If [Lightfoot administration agencies] were truly committed to transparency, I would be finding something else to do,” Topic said. “I served on a transition committee for this mayor. If you want to be transparent as a city in this country, here’s what you need to do: You have to get past, ‘We comply with the law.’ You have to go above and beyond the law. There’s all kinds of records that are withheld that don’t have to be withheld.”
Note: WTTW has consulted with Matt Topic on FOIA requests in the past.