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St. Clair County Circuit Clerk sued for failing to notify man of dismissed suit

By Angelica Saylo Pilo | Dec 19, 2017


BELLEVILLE — A man is suing St. Clair County Circuit Clerk Kahala Clay, alleging she failed to notify him that his suit against the City of Belleville for failing to respond to a FOIA request had been dismissed. 

Plaintiff Larry Price filed a petition for relief against Clay on Nov. 27. 

He argues that Clay failed to notify him or his counsel that a prior complaint against the City of Belleville had been dismissed by former circuit judge Robert LeChien on Aug. 2. LeChien later died on Aug. 31. 

As a result, Price claims Clay’s negligence caused him to pay more than $1,800 in additional attorney fees that were needed to file inquiries and motions to the court “that would not have been necessary had the Circuit Clerk’s Office performed the duties they are mandated by law to perform.”

Price explains that he filed a complaint against the City of Belleville following a Dec. 21, 2016, FOIA request seeking “access to review the plans and specifications that was approved by the City of Belleville for the issuance of the City’s Building Permit to the Holfbraugaus Project” and “any changes that were made to the approved construction after the City issued the Building Permit.” Specifically, Price alleges that “the City failed to timely respond to the FOIA request” and that “the City has asserted an invalid exemption to the FOIA”

LeChien granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss on Aug. 2, finding that failure to comply with the request within five business days. “Of course, considering that the subject project is a private building, such a denial is appropriate …”

LeChien held that projects not constructed or developed in whole or in part with public funds are exempted from FOIA

The plaintiff argues that the City’s extension of sewer services to the general project site somehow affects the exemption

“The fact remains that, because it is not a redevelopment project cost for which tax-increment financing incentives are provided, the subject building is not constructed with public funds,” LeChien wrote. “Taken to its logical extreme, Plaintiff’s contention that the extension of infrastructure such as sewer service re-defines a private project as public would subject construction plans of every home in various residential developments across St. Clair County to public disclosure, which is clearly an absurd result that this Court is required to avoid in statutory interpretation.”

However, Price and his counsel in the case at issue, Eric M. Rhein of Belleville, allege they did not learn about the order dismissing the suit until Oct. 24 through an email from defense counsel. 

Price claims the St. Clair County Circuit Clerk failed to send or mail the order to him or Rhein. 

Before filing his claim against Clay, Price filed a motion to enlarge time to file a post judgment motion on Nov. 15. 

“The plaintiff’s rights to ask for a reconsideration or an appeal should not be dependent on the competence of the Circuit Clerk’s office,” the motion stated. 

Price is representing himself pro se in his complaint against Clay. 

He seeks punitive damages of $50,000 or as the court may find fair and equitable for the inconveniences and violations of his civil rights. 

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 17-L-695

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