Two Cents Worth – Road trip to FOIA Fest

Two Cents Column

Two Cents Column

This past weekend I went on a day-long road trip to and from Chicago to attend the fourth annual FOIA Fest, which was put on by the Chicago Headline Club. It was a conference all revolving around the Freedom of Information Act and how I can use it to obtain documents and information from various units of government.

Now I know what you’re thinking. That sounds like the most boring way to spend a Saturday. Especially a Saturday in Chicago when they happen to be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. This was my second year going, and I won’t lie, some of the sessions I attended weren’t the most thrilling. However, between the three of us that went up, we covered nearly every session and recorded them for the others to review later. Unfortunately, I managed to pick the least stimulating of the day’s sessions, so at least my friends had a good time.

Now this isn’t to say it was a bad event or that I won’t go again. I just won’t hesitate to get up and leave a boring session and go to one of the others.

One of my traveling partners, Jeff Egbert of the Pinckneyville Press, uses FOIA on a fairly regular basis to keep the government bodies in Perry County on notice. I haven’t really had the need to do so, but its good to have the knowledge stored away in case it ever becomes necessary. During his time in Pinckneyville, he’s uncovered some pretty fascinating things and exposed some pretty dirty deals, all through FOIA and the Open Meetings Act. I choose to believe most government bodies aren’t doing something wrong on purpose but rather out of ignorance of the finer points of the law. Maybe I’m just being naive.

Anyway, after FOIA Fest we grabbed a chee-burger at the Billy Goat Tavern, some popcorn at Garrett’s, and hit the road back south. Good times had by all.