NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · ILLINOIS · Freedom of Information · April 17, 2007
Governor can fire attorney general in records case
April 17, 2007 · An Illinois judge has allowed the governor to replace Attorney General Lisa Madigan as his legal counsel in a public records dispute because an official in Madigan’s office issued an opinion that the records should be released.
The Better Government Association, a private watchdog group, sued Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich after he resisted its open records request for records related to federal subpoenas issued to the governor’s executive office. But prior to filing suit, the group asked for an opinion from public access counselor Terry Mutchler, who in a widely reported letter sided with the Better Government Association and said the records should be released.
Blagojevich asked the judge to remove Madigan, a fellow Democrat, from the case.
Saying Mutchler’s actions created a conflict of interest for Madigan, Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley ruled Friday that Blagojevich could replace her with a private attorney, according to The Associated Press.
In doing so, Kelley rejected Madigan’s arguments that the “public would not be served by allowing certain government agencies, their employees, or private persons to assume the inherent powers of the Attorney General.” Normally, the Illinois attorney general represents government agencies in all lawsuits related to official business.
“We are disappointed in the decision and are considering an appeal,” said Robyn Ziegler, a spokeswoman for Madigan.
(Better Government Association v. The Office of Governor Rod Blagojevich) — NW