Geneva D304 refuses to release law firm’s findings on $35K investigation into workplace harassment allegations

Kane County Chronicle seeking Illinois attorney general’s office review of FOIA denial

GENEVA – Geneva District 304 has denied an open records request to release a report from a law firm it paid more than $35,000 to investigate workplace harassment allegations against its facilities operations director.

The Kane County Chronicle has asked the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor to review the district’s denial.

The board in May hired Drendel & Jansons Law Group to investigate allegations against Facilities Operations Director Scott Ney as detailed in a story the Kane County Chronicle published in April.

Several former employees alleged that Ney created a “negative work environment leading to significant turnover at the District,” according to the legal services agreement with the law firm.

School officials confirmed that the report was presented to the school board at a closed meeting in September. Board President Taylor Egan would not comment at the time, citing it as a personnel issue.

In its FOIA denial, the district cited the exemption of “preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated, except that a specific record or relevant portion of a record shall not be exempt when the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.”

The district also argued that releasing the report would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

“Upon receipt of the requested document, no discipline has been imposed. Therefore, the requested document is exempt,” the denial stated.

According to the Freedom of Information Act, public bodies can only release documents that exist. So if a document does not exist, there is nothing to release. The law allows for some exemptions, in which public bodies are allowed to withhold certain documents from the public.

In its request for review, the Chronicle stated that there is an overriding public interest to know the results of the Drendel & Jansons Law Group report.

Records show the law firm was paid $35,262 for its probe and final report.