This is the tenth in our series of interviews with Sunshine Activists.
This week’s interview is with Chris Jenner of Cary, Illinois. Mr. Jenner’s open records activism eventually led to his election as a member of his local school board.
- What year did you file your first open records request?
- What documents were you looking for?
Full minutes from my district’s (Cary, Il district 26) school board meetings – they would only put summaries up on the district web site, that did not contain member votes on various motions.
- Did you get those documents?
- Charles Davis of the National Freedom of Information Coalition has talked about having “a FOI moment”. Have you had “a FOI moment” and can you describe it?
My FOI moment has been slowly developing over the past 20 years. It began in the late 1980s when I started reading articles and books implying the United States government might be less than forthright, and may have been so for quite a while. Concealment of information is only one part of my ongoing “FOI moment” development.
- What is the worst (or funniest or most obstructionist or most outrageous) reply you’ve ever received?
Mine probably isn’t all that bad. It was the Superintendent trying to explain to me that the district’s actual cost of reproduction was $0.35 a page.
- How quickly do you generally receive replies to a request?
Reasonable periods. I think I’ve only had an extension requested once.
- About how many open records requests have you filed?
- How do you let your friends, neighbors or the local media know about the documents you get?
I’ll send people who I think might be interested a copy of my request, and let them know I’d be glad to share whatever I get.
- Have you run into any trouble as the result of filing open records requests?
- What’s the most significant political outcome that has resulted from the work you do?
I got elected to the school board.
- Has your local newspaper ever commented on the work you do? Favorably or unfavorably?
Yes, generally favorably.
- What’s your best advice for other “Sunshine Activists”?
“Maintain skin as thick as possible, don’t let them wear you down or let them squirm off the hook.”
- What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?
The lengths to which government officials and employees will go to maintain the status quo – a descent into socialism.
- If you could change your state’s open records law just one way, what would that change be?
All government bodies keep all their information on the web. The information goes online and is available to all shortly after it’s generated / approved, and it stays there, unchanged.
- Do you participate in any formal way in organizations that promote the freedom of information cause?
Yes, I actively support candidates and groups that advocate for open (and limited) government.
- Are you willing to have other “sunshine activists” from your state get in touch with you?