FOIA request made on Fairview Heights over online travel settlements
A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has been made upon Fairview Heights over settlement agreements and documents related to 13 lawsuits the city filed against online travel companies.
City Attorney Al Paulson, reached by phone Thursday, asked that the paper formally submit a FOIA request for the documents due to confidentiality clauses they contain.
The Record began asking for the documents two weeks ago in an effort to determine how much the city may have received from all the defendants. The paper also is asking for documents related to attorneys' fees paid in the cases as part of the FOIA request.
Thus far, Fairview Heights has received approximately $50,000 from Orbitz.com, the last defendant to settle. The settlement was reached in late March, according to the city's Treasurer's Office.
Fairview Heights Mayor Gail Mitchell has already said, in prior interviews, that he would authorize the release of the documents.
The settlements are the result of 13 individual lawsuits that Fairview Heights filed to recoup what it claimed were back hotel-room taxes. Originally, the city attempted to represent 50 other Illinois municipalities in a class action suit filed in 2004. The suit failed to obtain class certification after its removal to federal court. The federal court judge ruled that Fairview Heights did not meet the class requirements and therefore could not be its representative.
The city was, however, free to pursue individual claims.
Fairview Heights sued Orbitz, Expedia, Pricelline.com, Hotwire and other sites. All defendants settled.
The FOIA law mandates that municipalities served with requests for documents must deny or meet the request within seven business days.