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Friday, February 16, 2018

Water Bill Customer's Name Not Exempt Under FOIA

A requester submitted a FOIA request with a city asking for a copy of the water bill for a particular address. The city provided a copy of the bill, but redacted the customer's name, mailing address, and account number, citing 7(1)(b) of FOIA ("private information"). The requester filed a complaint with the Public Access Counselor (PAC) office of the Attorney General, who found the city in violation of FOIA in its second binding opinion of 2018.

In PAC Op. 18-002, the PAC rejected the city's argument that the water customer's name was exempt from release under the "private information" exemption (section 7(b) of FOIA), finding that the definition of "private information" in section 2(c-5) of FOIA did not expressly exempt a person's name from release. The PAC also cited section 2.5 of FOIA that states that records of a public body that relate to the receipt of public funds are deemed public records subject to release, and determined that a utility bill "clearly relates to the City's receipt of public funds." 

In sum, the PAC ordered the City to provide a copy of the requested water bill to the requester displaying the customer's name.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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