The Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General's office recently issued its Annual Report for 2016. The report provides information about the number of inquiries and requests for review received by the PAC office, and summarizes the binding opinions for 2016. Here are the highlights:
- In 2016, the PAC received more than 4,500 requests for assistance from members of the public and the media. 4354 related to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and 366 related to the Open Meetings Act (OMA)
- The PAC issued 15 binding opinions in 2016.
- The PAC fielded between 15 to 20 questions per day through its FOIA phone hotline, and responded to more than 300 inquiries through the PAC email.
- The PAC conducted 15 training sessions.
The Annual Report also includes a summary of a few of the PAC's non-binding determinations (i.e., advisory opinions) issued in 2016. Interestingly, the PAC only chose a handful of advisory opinions that ruled against the public body. In this author's opinion, this type of one-sided reporting misleads the public to believe opinion that public bodies are generally not transparent. As we have reported in the past, many of the advisory opinions issued by the PAC rule in favor of the public body. Unfortunately, because the PAC refuses to publish these advisory opinions on its website, the public is not made aware of these opinions. Instead, the PAC releases an Annual Report that is silent about these "other" opinions - those in which the public body followed FOIA or the OMA - and instead focuses exclusively on opinions that rule against public bodies.
In the future, I hope that the PAC can be more transparent in its reporting. That would seem to be in the best interest of everyone, as full disclosure of all of the PAC's determinations could assist public bodies in complying with these two laws and provide the public with a fuller picture of the PAC's rulings and determinations.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf