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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Part 2: PAC Binding Opinions of 2010 in Review - FOIA

Yesterday, I reported on the six binding opinions issued by the Illinois Attorney General (PAC) in 2011.  Today, I have summarized the four binding opinions issued in 2010.

Spoiler alert - just as in 2011, the PAC ruled against the public body in each of the 2010 opinions summarized below.

PAC Opinion 10-001  (copies)
An individual filed a FOIA request seeking a copy of a public body's water meter card showing reading for a six month period.  The public body responded that the requestor could inspect a copy of the records, but the public body was not obligated to provide a copy of the records.  On appeal, the PAC determined that the public body violated FOIA by not furnishing copies of the records as required by Section 3(b) of FOIA.

PAC Opinion 10-002  (fees for copies)
An individual filed a FOIA request for certified payroll records and contracts with various contractors.  The public body charged a fee for the copies that were provided to the requestor as well as a fee for duplicate copies that were retained by the public body.  The individual appealed the duplicate fee charges to the PAC.  The PAC determined that although FOIA requires a public body to retain a copy of the original request and response, the public body is not entitled to pass on duplicate copy costs to the requestor.  In short, the PAC determined that the public body violated FOIA.

PAC Opinion 10-003  (autopsy reports)
Reporters filed a FOIA request for autopsy records of Christopher Kelly (fundraiser for former Governor Blagojevich) and Michael Scott (President of the Chicago Board of Education), both suicide victims.  The requested documents included photographs, toxicology reports, police reports, and various other records.  The public body requested pre-authorization from the PAC to deny the request based on the "personal privacy" exemption, arguing that the privacy interests of the victims' families outweighed the public's interest in the release of these records.  The PAC denied the pre-authorization request except as it related to post-mortem photographs, ordered the public body to release the records, and determined that the public body violated FOIA by not releasing the records. 

PAC Opinion 10-004  (settlement agreement)
A reporter filed a FOIA request for a copy of a settlement agreement in an employment discrimination case.  The public body denied the request, stating that it did not have a copy of the settlement agreement because the lawsuit was defended by the public body's insurance carrier.  The PAC determined that Section 2.02 of FOIA expressly states that settlement agreements are public records subject to release to the public and that the public body violated FOIA by not providing a copy of the settlement agreement. 


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