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Friday, August 15, 2014

PAC Requires "Reasonable Search" for Records for FOIA

A reporter filed a FOIA request with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) seeking various records relating to CPS athletic association records, including contracts, receipts, eligibility sheets, and ticket proceeds.  CPS provided eligibility sheets, but did not respond or address the other requested records. After the reporter contacted CPS about the other records, CPS responded that it had searched its contract records but did not locate any responsive documents. CPS also asserted that it did not have a method for recording ticket sales.  

The reporter filed a request for review with the PAC questioning CPS' response that it did not possess responsive records.  In response, CPS stated that it had no central reporting requirement for ticket sales at athletic events, and no way of tallying that information.  

The PAC first noted that FOIA requires a public body to conduct a "reasonable search tailored to the nature of a particular request."  The PAC cited no provision of the Illinois FOIA or any Illinois case to support its statement, instead relying on three federal cases interpreting the federal statute. In any event, the PAC determined that the CPS violated FOIA by failing to demonstrate that it had conducted an adequate search of the record systems of every one of the individual schools within the CPS system for the responsive documents.  The PAC rejected CPS' argument that to do so would be unduly burdensome because CPS failed to extend an opportunity to the reporter to narrow the request. The PAC ordered CPS to search all recordkeeping systems, both central and for each individual school in the CPS system, for all gate receipts, ticket sale proceeds, bank deposits, and all other records.

You can read the opinion here:  PAC Op. 14-007 (August 14, 2014)

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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