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Friday, January 13, 2012

PAC Interprets New "Recurrent Requester" Provision Under FOIA

The Public Access Counselor (PAC) of the Illinois Attorney General's office issued an opinion on January 9, 2012, interpreting the new provision in the Freedom of Information Act that authorizes a municipality to classify an individual as a "recurrent requester" for purposes of responding to FOIA requests.  In this opinion, the AG determined that the village violated FOIA by improperly classifying the requesters under the new provision. 

In this case, a husband and wife had submitted numerous FOIA requests to a particular village over the course of a year.  The village combined the couple's requests together, classifying them as "recurrent requesters" under Section 3.2 of FOIA.  As a result, the village took the position that it had 21, rather than 5, business days to respond to the request.  The couple filed a request for review of the village's decision with the PAC's office.  The village defended its decision to classify the couple as a single entity because their requests were usually in the same envelope and the responses mailed to the same address.

The PAC disagreed with the couple, finding that the village violated FOIA because the statute defines a requester as one "person."  Therefore, the couple's requests could not be consolidated to fall within the statutory provision of 50 requests within the statutory time period.  In addition, the PAC found that the village failed to follow the statutory procedure for notifying the wife of the village's determination because the notice did not explain why she was treated as a "recurrent requester" or the possible responses that the village would provide within the 21 days. 

The PAC's opinion can be accessed on the AG's website

For those keeping score, the PAC is now 13-0 in issuing binding PAC opinions ruling against the public body (the PAC issued a second binding opinion in 2012 that ruled in favor of a reporter in a request for review filed against the Chicago Public Schools). 

Post authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink.


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