Nameoki Township, Madison County, Ill. (ECWd) – Public records of a public body are considered true and correct copies of originals and are able to be relied upon as true and correct. Apparently not the case in Nameoki Township, where public comments revealing records provided by the township in response to a Freedom of Information
Nameoki Township, Madison County, Ill. (ECWd) –
Public records of a public body are considered true and correct copies of originals and are able to be relied upon as true and correct.
Apparently not the case in Nameoki Township, where public comments revealing records provided by the township in response to a Freedom of Information Act request brought threats of lawsuits by Township Supervisor John “Eric” Foster, rebuke by the township attorney, and more threats of lawsuits from the Township Supervisor and its attorney.
Of course, we seriously doubt any of the accusations of slander and defamation would hold water in a court of law because the township provided the very records in question as its response to a direct request submitted under FOIA.
During the October 24, 2023, meeting of the Nameoki Township Board of Trustees, Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler addressed the township board during public comment. The crux of his public comment was accusations that Nameoki Township Supervisor John “Eric” Foster had allegedly bid on two projects of the township through his company named “Honey-Do Home Repair, Inc.”
Quote from Prenzler’s intended comment when he was interrupted: “Twice Township Supervisor [John] Eric Foster submitted bids from his company, Honey-Do Home Repair, Inc., to Nameoki Township, in early 2022 and 2023, for PEP (Park Enhancement Program) projects. One bid was dated February 12, 2022, for $21,870 dollars. The other bid was in the amount of $26,530 on January 17, 2023. Each time there was only one other bid, which was lower.”
Supervisor Eric Foster interrupted Prenzler and told him he was not allowed to make those comments since it was slander and defamation, and that he (Foster) did not submit any bid on any projects of the township. The township attorney also interjected comments seemingly to threaten lawsuits because of the public comment.
Prenzler then finished his public comment replacing the word “bids” with “whatever you call it” and after he finished there were more rebuttals from Supervisor Foster and the attorney – both insisting that Foster never submitted any bids, that the public comments made were false, and that the township may have lost a $15,000 grant because of the FOIAs and a published article, and if the township did lose the grant, that the township would look at filing suit against Prenzler in his personal capacity to force him to pay the township for the $15,000 grant loss.
Any such lawsuits would most likely be quickly tossed under the Anti-SLAPP Act, as these comments were clearly aimed at public officials, and used the very records provided by those public officials. The Supervisor and attorney should apologize for their conduct and speech.
The “true” public records as provided by the Township:
A Freedom of Information Act request was submitted on September 27, 2023, to Nameoki Township for “Copies of all bids in the possession of the township . . .”
On October 5, 2023, the Township responded via email with the public records the township believed were responsive to the FOIA request, which included two attachments; one file named “BIDS.pdf” (from the 2023 project) and another file named “2022 KREKOVICH.pdf” (from the 2022 project).
In the “BIDS.pdf” document are two separate “bids” for the proposed 2023 township project to grade, form, and pour new handicap sidewalk from parking lot to pavilion, chain link fence work, basketball hoop work, and asphalt sealing and striping work, among others:
- January 17, 2023, bid from Honey-Do Home Repair, Inc. (owned by the Township Supervisor) listing a “Total Estimate” of $26,530.00. This was signed by John E. Foster.
- February 1, 2023, bid from D.M. Krekovich Co., Inc. listing a “Proposed estimate” of $22,710.00. This company performed work in 2022 on a different project and “estimate” and was paid in 2022.
During public comment, Foster and the township attorney both insisted Foster did not submit a “bid” but rather an “estimate” since the paper submitted said “estimate” on it. They claimed the word estimate was at the top of the paper, but it was not. Instead, it was towards the bottom and next to the total dollar amount.
Incidentally, the other “bid” also said “estimate” on it, so are we to believe there were no bids, but merely estimates? It needs to be noted that both documents indicate “Thank you and we appreciate your business”. Such a statement appears to indicate they would do business with the Township, which if that were to happen with the first “bid” would be a violation of the township code.
Why did the township respond with these records as copies of bids, and label them “BIDS.pdf” if they were not actually bids?
Did the township provide false records to the FOIA requester, as they now insist the response was not accurate?
Why the accusations of wrongly “interpreting” the township-provided documents, when the township is who responded with those records when asked for copies of “bids.” How else could a person interpret this response?
Video of this interaction (sorry for the quality and orientation – I took it with my cell phone – the words spoken are the important parts of this video):