A Chicago suburban bus service is currently under fire for withholding pertinent information regarding the company’s history of bus accidents, as well as, alcohol and drug testing of bus drivers. Woodridge.Patch.com reports that the Chicago-based bus service Pace was served with a lawsuit on March 21 by the Better Government Association (BGA) – a nonprofit, non-partisan watchdog group – for violating Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act. Our Chicago accident attorneys learned through court papers that the bus company has refused to reveal the previous mentioned information despite requests from the Better Government Association – a clear violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal law that was enacted in 1966 that requires that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records. According to FOIA.gov, the only exception to the Act is when such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by certain exemptions or through special law enforcement record exclusions. However, in this case, FIOA provides that documents in the possession of public agencies are accessible to members of the public.
The lawsuit in question ignited when the BGA requested information from Pace on February 14, 2012, pertaining to “any and all police reports and accident reports relating to vehicle accidents that involved a Pace vehicle from 2010-2011.” Additionally, the BGA requested that Pace provide documents that were “sufficient to show how many Pace employees in safety-sensitive positions were tested for drugs and alcohol from 2010-2011 and how many of said employees tested positive for drugs and alcohol.”
However, our accident attorneys in Chicago learned that the bus company asserts that they refused to acknowledge BGA’s requests on the basis that accident-related documents do not have to be released if they relate to “self-insurance claims, loss or risk management information” – one of the few permitted exceptions to the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, Pace contends that they released documents in 2010 relating to drug and alcohol testing material and no such documents existed in 2011.
The news article reports that Pace is a taxpayer-supported agency while the bus company’s website, Pacebus.com, reveals that the company is a “premier suburban transit provider that quickly moves people to work and school safely and efficiently throughout Chicago’s suburbs.” In a statement released by the President and CEO of BGA, our Chicago accident lawyers learned that the BGA believes through Pace’s refusal to reveal documents, leads one to believe that they are hiding something detrimental and dangerous to the bus company’s riders, as well as, other members of the public.