The Chicago Sun-Times recently reported on the status of FOIA appeals with the Attorney General's office of the Public Access Counselor. In the story, the Sun-Times reports that the PAC has yet to respond to more than 2,800 appeals of FOIA requests. According to the story, 1,200 of these unanswered appeals were filed more than 2 years ago. That's a lot of unanswered appeals. With this type of backlog, it's not clear how the PAC is going to keep up with the more than 250-350 new appeals that come in each month.
On this blog, we have provided summaries of all of the PAC's binding opinions. Loyal readers know that there aren't very many of them - this year, for example, the PAC has only issued 2 binding opinions, and only 62 opinions have been issued in the past 5 years. Although the PAC's binding opinions can be found on the Attorney General's website, most of the PAC's decisions on FOIA complaints come in the form of advisory rather than binding opinions. It isn't clear how many advisory opinions have been issued, though, since the PAC hasn't made that information easily available for the public to review. Advisory opinions are not available on the Attorney General's website, so they are not helpful in providing any guidance to public bodies or requesters.
Given that the PAC is the agency tasked with making sure that public bodies operate in a more transparent manner and that public bodies respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner (5 days, in most cases), shouldn't that agency set a good example by (1) posting advisory opinions (or summaries of those opinions) on its website and (2) issuing timely opinions on appeals?
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf