WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Vague Info from a Public Agency

Dec 16, 2014

The McDonough County Health Department told reporters they would need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain information about why the agency temporarily closed a restaurant in Macomb.

Several news outlets did file a FOIA and received the information promptly. But the Shop Talk panelists believe the health department should share the information with reporters and the public without requiring a FOIA.

Jasmine Crighton feels the agency hoped reporters would drop the story and move on to another if they couldn’t get the information right away.  She refused to drop the issue and filed a FOIA.  She feels it was a good lesson for her students  -- they learned what a little persistence can yield.

Rich Moreno said that by requiring FOIAs the department has created another level of bureaucracy for the public to work through. He also said the longer the department held back the info, the more the rumor mill churned out speculation about what happened.

Rich Egger feels the real story concerns the health department’s inability to update its website. Restaurant inspection scores have not been updated in more than a year.  He thinks the department should find some way to regularly share information short of requiring a FOIA.