Grafton Township board: Assessor must hand over requested information
The Grafton Township board of trustees is requiring that Assessor Al Zielinski hand over all information responsive to two Freedom of Information requests that were filed by a resident last month.
After meeting in executive session Monday, trustees told Zielinski he must give Clerk Kathryn Hurley, who is the township's FOIA officer, complete documentation by the end of the week.
This action follows a lawsuit filed against the township earlier this month by Lake in the Hills resident Bryan McKnight, who claimed Zielinski violated the state's open records law by withholding some requested information.
Unhappy with an increase in his property taxes, McKnight had previously filed two FOIA requests asking for property assessment data and documents so he could check the calculated property assessments himself.
When requests were initially filed, Hurley said, she gave them to Zielinski so he could gather the data and give it back to her.
Instead, Zielinski responded directly to McKnight's request, said Grafton Township Supervisor James Kearns.
In doing this, Kearns said, Zielinski violated protocol.
"You have never been appointed by this township board as the FOIA officer," Kearns told Zielinski. "You were totally out of line."
Moving forward, Hurley will handle the information and respond to McKnight's request.
"I'm looking forward to getting the information that we've been trying to get for the last four months," McKnight said. "Hopefully it'll give us the information we need to be able to figure out how we get our (property) assessments."
In an email sent to Zielinski on Aug. 6, Assistant Attorney General Josh Jones said Zielinski filed a complaint with the Public Access Bureau, claiming that the township improperly informed him that all FOIA requests must be handled by Hurley.
Jones said the Office of the Attorney General will not take any action with the complaint, but he did advise Zielinski and the township to set the record straight moving forward.
"It is up to each public body to determine who shall serve as its FOIA Officer(s)," he said in the email. "Because the Assessor's Office is part of the Township, this matter is subject to internal Township resolution."
To eliminate future confusion, the board also reaffirmed that Hurley is the sole FOIA officer for the township.
"You do not make your own rules," Kearns said to Zielinski. "The clerk is our FOIA officer, and you are not. That's the way it is."