Many questions, few answers on Park District union settlement

  • By Fernando Diaz
  • Staff Writer
  • April 24, 2009 @ 12:27 PM

My dysfunctional, quasi-relationship with the Chicago Park District's senior counsel began last month, when  I asked how much it cost the district to fight a losing battle against one of its unions. 

In an effort to cut costs, the district pared wages and changed work rules for some employees in 2001. A legal fight ensued, and the district was ultimately found to have violated state labor laws.

How much did the district spend on legal fees over the course of that battle? And would it have been a better idea to simply give up and pay the wages?

Easy questions. But the answers aren't easy to find.

I started by asking a Park District spokesperson. 

The Park District's PR operation asked me to take the somewhat convoluted and non-standard step of putting my questions into a Freedom of Information Act request.

Of course, I wasn't looking for documents -- just answers to a couple of quick questions.

And in the latest Kafkaesque turn of events, the district has denied the FOIA request. Why? Because it asks for answers to questions instead of documents.

"The District is under no obligation to respond to interrogatories. You may renew your request by providing specific information including sufficient detail to enable us to locate documents that are responsive to your request with a reasonable amount of effort. If you know, please include the date, title or name, author, recipient, and subject matter, or type of the records you are seeking."

So now we will continue our little game on a slightly different tack, filing another Freedom of Information Act request for any and all invoices from the the district's law firms dating back to 2001. Care to guess what their response might be? How long it might take?

I'll bet on not enough and late. But I'm willing to give the district another shot.

We'll keep you posted on how it goes.


Staff Writer Fernando Diaz covers labor and unions for the Daily News. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 14, or fernando [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.