The Village of Dolton is in violation of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for not responding to a request from South Cook News for information about its 2-year-old Invest in Dolton program. The village has been warned that legal action is imminent to force it to comply with the law.
The October 13 FOIA request stemmed from a tip South Cook News received about possible abuses of the real estate investment program, which auctioned off vacant houses as a way of boosting the tax base in the economically distressed village.
The South Cook News FOIA request reads: “Pursuant to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting an electronic list (preferably non-PDF such as CSV, Excel, Txt, CDs, digital files, etc.) of all the qualified candidates who were allowed to participate in the Invest in Dolton program as well as all of the candidates who acquired homes as a result of the Invest in Dolton Program.”
Mary Kay Duggan, Dolton Village Clerk | Village of Dolton website
Under the law, the village has five days to comply with the request, deny it or ask for an extension. South Cook News has received no response at all from village Clerk Mary Kay Duggan, who also serves as the village’s FOIA officer, to the original October 13 request or a message sent October 28 threatening legal action.
Under the Invest in Dolton program, the vacant homes auctioned off were to be rehabilitated for owner occupancy. The village ordinance approving the program stated that over 400 vacant homes in the village places more pressure on property owners to make up for the over $2 million the village estimates it loses due to the empty homes.
“The applicant will be required to rehabilitate said home in compliance with all Village codes,” a description of the program says. “All applicants to qualify must show proof of access to funds in a minimum amount of $40,000.00 to rehabilitate the property and pay acquisition costs, by way of (a) line of credit or cash or bank approval loan.”
In November 2018, the Better Government Association (BGA) published an in-depth look at the history of the once-vibrant village. The story includes a section on efforts at rehabbing abandoned houses.
“Over the objections of (Mayor Riley) Rogers, the board majority voted last year to fire an intergovernmental agency for the south suburbs that had handled the task (of renovating the homes) and replace it with Calumet City-based private developer B.P. Capital under a no-bid contract,” the story, “An American Suburb 2018” stated. “Under the deal, at which Rogers balked, the village is to seize vacant properties and turn them over to B.P. for repairs and sale.
“At least three Dolton residents have come forward to complain about past dealings with B.P.,” the story continued, “including Pink Dorsey IV, who paid the firm $80,000 for titles to a dozen abandoned homes in nearby Markham two years ago. Dorsey said B.P never turned over the titles.
“I’m just one small person and I got duped, but a whole village shouldn’t have gotten duped,” Dorsey told BGA. “Somebody should have done their due diligence. … There's no telling what else somebody will try to sell Dolton."