On December 19, 2022, MBG attorneys Paul S. Balik and George F. Galland, Jr. notched an impactful victory in court for a longtime affordable housing nonprofit client. The holding achieved by MBG, which is related to Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, will ultimately make the City of Chicago more transparent, especially in the area of City bid solicitations and project funding.
In April 2021, the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development issued a request for proposals to develop the Pioneer Bank site in Humboldt Park on Chicago’s West Side as part of the INVEST South/West initiative, and the client eagerly submitted a proposal. In November 2021, at a celebration marking the second anniversary of INVEST South/West, the City announced that the client would not be awarded the project. DPD then denied the client’s requests for additional information about why the competing proposal was chosen. To ensure the decision-making process was fair, the client, represented by MBG, filed a FOIA request that the City provide information about how the City evaluated and chose among the competing bidders. The City refused to provide the requested documents, citing an exemption to FOIA for bidding-related documents “until an award or final selection is made,” and claiming that the City didn’t need to hand over the requested documents until the City entered into a contract with the competing developer (5 ILCS 140/7(1)(h)). Waiting that long for the documents would have prevented any meaningful review of whether the City properly awarded the project to the competing bidder.
MBG then sued the City in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Cecilia A. Horan held that, under the plain reading of the City’s claimed FOIA exemption, the City made its award or final selection of the competing bidder back at the November 2021 event and ordered the City to provide the client with all requested records.
In light of this court win, MBG will continue to work with the client to determine future legal routes, including a potential bid protest lawsuit, as the client and MBG review the requested information from the City.