Firefighter Seeks Public Records on Legal Costs of Privatization Battle

An Illinois firefighter has filed a public records suit in hopes of exposing how much local officials in a neighboring village have spent on efforts to privatize their fire department.

Scott Moran, a lieutenant with the Homewood Fire Department, alleges that the Village of North Riverside refused his request for public records that would show how much the village has spent on legal fees associated with hiring a private fire department. The village has been battling North Riverside Firefighters IAFF Local 2714 before the Illinois Labor Relations Board and in state court, seeking to unilaterally break the collective bargaining agreement.

Moran is represented by the law firm of Cornfield and Feldman LLP, who also represents Local 2714. He originally requested the information from the village on January 3, 2017 in an effort to access the information in advance of village elections on April 4. The suit was necessary after months of stonewalling by the village. According to the complaint:

  • “The voters have a right under FOIA to know the total cost of this litigation to inform their vote in choosing a candidate for mayor.”
  • “It is imperative that the requested documents be produced prior to April 4.”

Here is more on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • mr618

    Does Moran have standing to bring this suit? From reading the linked article, it doesn’t appear that Homewood FD provides services to North Riverside, nor that Moran pays taxes to North Riverside. Or does standing not enter into FOIA requests? Additionally, the article says he is opposing privatization of the various local FD’s. Is he opposed to each individual community having its own not-for-profit fire company (as opposed to a regional or county FD), or is he referring to for-profit FDs like Rural-Metro?

    I know these are questions the reporter should have asked. I wish there were some way we in emergency services could educate journalists in how to correctly and fully report on emergency services issues (Hal Bruno, Dave Statter, Brian Williams, and a few others have mastered that art, but that’s because they have all been members of the community). Maybe you and Statter could put together a dog-and-pony show on “Journalism and Emergency Services”?

    • CurtVarone

      Public records are public records… they are not limited to those who have a “need to know”, nor are they limited to those who live in the community, county, state or even the country. They are truly open and accessible to the public.

      Moran has standing because he requested them, and he was turned down. If you or I tried to sue we would lack standing… but he is the one who asked… and he was the one whose request was not fulfilled.

      I’d like nothing more than doing more classes with Dave Statter. Great guy!!!

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