CHICAGO — The Illinois Second District Appellate Court has upheld a circuit court's ruling granting the Chicago Tribune's request for summary judgment in its attempt to force the College of DuPage and its fundraising foundation to release a subpoena.
In The Chicago Tribune v. The College of DuPage and The College of DuPage Foundation, the Chicago Tribune had filed a complaint in DuPage County Circuit Court requesting a summary judgment to force the college and affiliated foundation to respond to its requests filed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gain access to a disclosure of a federal grand jury subpoena that was served on the Foundation in April 2015.
The process that led to the complaint began when the Tribune filed FOIA requests with the College of DuPage Foundation to gain access to “any copies of grand jury subpoenas for the College of DuPage Foundation which are in possession, physically or in electronic form, of the college, any of its administrators, senior managers, president, board members, paid consultants, lobbyists or representatives."
The official representatives from the College of DuPage Foundation replied a week later claiming that the organization was not in possession of any documents that would fall under the FOIA request.
Two weeks later, the Tribune followed up its initial request with a second FOIA document sent to both the College of DuPage and the Foundation, seeking various documents regarding the expenses reimbursed to the college's administrators by the Foundation through its leadership cultivation account.
Again the Foundation refused the request, claiming it was not subject to the FOIA request because it was a nongovernmental, not-for-profit corporation, while the college responded by saying it was not in possession of any such documents.
The Tribune made its final request to both organizations seeking copies of all state and federal subpoenas received by the College of DuPage Foundation since April 1, 2015. Once again the Foundation replied by arguing that it was not subject to FOIA, and the college again answered with a claim that it did not have the documents in question.
This led the Tribune to file a complaint against both organizations seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under FOIA.
During the resulting circuit court proceedings, the College of DuPage instead provided affidavits from two individuals, stating that neither the college nor the Foundation’s staff possessed the subpoena. Its legal representation then moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that this testimony invalidated the complaint, a request that was denied by the circuit court.
The circuit court then went on to rule that the subpoena was obtained while the Foundation was under contract to perform a governmental function on behalf of the College of DuPage, which related directly to a governmental function, placing them under the response requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.
In its final analysis, the appeals court remanded the case back to DuPage County for proceedings related to payment of the Tribune's legal fees.