Deadline passes with no response to FOIA on Fairview Heights lawsuit
Fairview Heights has yet to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents showing how much the city netted from lawsuits against 13 online travel companies.
The city is required by Illinois law to honor or deny the request within seven business days. The deadline for its response was Monday, May 18.
The Madison County Record filed the request May 7, asking for the settlement agreements from the suits and documents related to attorneys' fees. The paper is trying to determine how much the city took away from the suits that started five years ago and what, if anything, it paid out.
City Attorney Alvin Paulson had requested the FOIA when reached by telephone May 7. The FOIA was hand-delivered to Paulson's office the same day.
The Record has been seeking the documents since mid-April.
Since the deadline's passing, three messages that have been left for Paulson have yet to be returned. A message was also left for Fairview Heights Mayor Gail Mitchell Thursday morning. It had also not been returned as of press time.
The documents the Record has requested are the results of lawsuits Fairview Heights pursued against online travel companies like Priceline.com, Expedia, Hotwire and Hotels.com.
The action originally started as a class action suit. Fairview Heights proposed to act as a standard bearer for 50 other Illinois municipalities. The suit was to recover back hotel room taxes the city claimed it and others like it were owed.
The class action hit a fatal snag when it reached federal court and the class wasn't certified. Fairview Heights was free to pursue suits on its own.
All 13 defendants settled. Orbitz was the last to settle, paying out $56,733.68, according to the city treasurer's department.
In previous interviews, Mitchell had said he would authorize the release of the documents. Paulson had requested the FOIA due to confidentiality clauses contained in the settlements.
If the city denies the FOIA, the Record will appeal the decision.