Hog confinement lawsuit

From the McDonough County Voice:

A southeastern McDonough County resident who is fighting the proposal of Shamrock Acres hog confinement has filed suit against the Illinois Department of Agriculture, alleging Freedom of Information Act violations.

Ramona Cook, of rural Industry, said Thursday that she filed a Freedom of information Act request in May for documents and site plans related to the hog confinement.

Cook said she requested the information to examine state guidelines for setbacks.

"We need the documents to see whether the nearby daycare will be within the setbacks," Cook said. "They have never produced a certified survey of that distance...Just one other thing that seems pretty unfair to residents here and pretty in favor of big business."

Cook said without the documents, the McDonough County Board can't be fully informed on the issue.

The board will vote on a recommendation for the confinement, however the Department of Agriculture is not bound by the board's opinion.

Cook's attorney, David Albee, said the Department of Agriculture has a history of witholding documents in similar situations.

He successfully sued the department when a 22,000-head dairy operation was proposed in Joe Daviess County.

"The court ruled that they had to turn over the plans and they did, but only after a judge made them do it," Albee said.

In the case of Shamrock Acres, Albee said the department is withholding "quite a lot."

"We'd like to see everything," he said. "Not just what they choose to piece-meal out. These are public records."

A hearing on the suit is scheduled for Monday before Associate Judge Patricia Walton in^Macomb.