East St. Louis activist responds to City’s motion to dismiss in FOIA case

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Oct 15, 2013

An East St. Louis man accusing city officials and staff of failing to abide by Freedom of Information Act requirements responded to a defense motion to dismiss saying the city is delaying justice.

Civic activist Matt Hawkins filed the complaint more than three months ago against East St. Louis officials and staff, claiming he has not received a response from the city or its attorney regarding his request for documents concerning a Community Block Development Grant, where nearly $2.5 million was spent to renovate and/or build 16 housing units involving only 12 buildings. Hawkins' FOIA was filed nearly six months ago.

Hawkins seeks the court’s assistance to enforce his right to information concerning the city’s handling of grant money. According to the complaint, Hawkins requests that the court issue an immediate issuance of a writ of mandamus, which compels the defendants to immediately release the requested public information and to “order the production of any public records improperly withheld from the plaintiff.”

Hawkins also filed a motion to amend his complaint, saying the defendants cannot prove that they operated according to a tax increment finance (TIF) program because allegedly no minutes were taken, filed nor recorded with the City Clerk’s office since 2009.

Hawkins contends that about $40 million has been spent illegally without the proper authorization or record keeping, the motion states.

Likewise, he claims that if no meetings of the Joint Review Board occurred between 2009 and 2012, then a redevelopment plan could not have been legally approved, the motion states. Therefore, Hawkins requests the court to bar the City of East St. Louis from spending any TIF funds until the city has properly demonstrated the laws for one fiscal year.

The defendants filed a motion on Aug. 5 to dismiss Hawkins’ complaint stating that it failed to comply with Illinois Rules of Civil Procedure by failing to consecutively number the paragraphs and separate each paragraph into separate allegations. Hawkins responded by using the line numbering system in his response.

In Hawkins’ response to the motion to dismiss, he accuses the defendants of trying to drag out the case and allegedly delay justice.

“Looking at the defendant’s incomplete quotation of the section 2-603,” Hawkins stated, “it is clear that this motion to dismiss is written to deceive the court and the plaintiff for if they had only continued to part of the same section they would have clearly seen that this law also stated that ‘pleadings shall be liberally construed with a view to doing substantial justice.’”

Hawkins names The City of East St. Louis, Mayor Alvin Parks, City Councilman Roy Mosley, City Councilwoman Emeka Jackson, City Councilwoman Latoya Greenwood, City Councilman Robert Eastern III, City Clerk Dorene Hoosman and City Manager Deletra Hudson as defendants in the May 31 complaint.

Hawkins seeks treble damages for all monies found to be misappropriated by the defendants in regards to the Tax Increment Finance program from 2009 to 2012, which adds up to about $120 million. He says he plans to use the money to begin the process of abating taxes for property owners who have allegedly been defrauded by the defendants. He also requests the court to seek full prosecution of the defendants for misconduct and removal from office.

He also seeks a judgment of at least $100,000 in damages and wants the court to fine the defendant public bodies $5,000 each for violating the FOIA.

“Any funds granted by the court would be used to make East St. Louis government more transparent and user friendly,” Hawkins stated in his complaint.

St. Clair County Associate Judge Chris Kolker has scheduled a motion hearing for Nov. 22 at 1:30 p.m.

Hawkins is a plaintiff pro se.

Michael L. Wagner of Clayborne, Sabo & Wagner LLP in Belleville represents the defendants.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 13-MR-190

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