The General Assembly recently amended the Local Records Act to require all units of local government (except Chicago) and school districts to post on their websites a single, uniform email address that members of the public can use to electronically communicate with their elected officials, unless the officials have individual email addresses for that purpose. P.A. 98-0930. The posting requirement does not apply to a local government’s social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, just to the public body’s website. The email address must be "hyperlinked" and easily accessed from the public body's home page.
It is not entirely clear what the law means by the phrase “unless such officials have an individual email address for that purpose.” Does that mean that a public body is excused from the posting entirely if the elected officials have individual email addresses? Or does it mean that the public body must post links to each of the officials’ individual email addresses on its website if each official has an email address?
When initially introduced, the law required posting of each individual member's email address; however, that was changed to the current requirement of a single contact email. Because of the change in the language prior to approval, it would seem reasonable for local governments to post a single contact email address. If a public body chooses that approach, someone should be assigned to monitor the uniform, single email address and make sure the communications are forwarded to the respective elected officials.
Note that the law has a home-rule preemption, so home rule municipalities are not exempt from the new posting requirement.
The new law is effective January 1, 2015, and local governments have 90 days after the effective date to comply with the new posting requirement.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf