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Friday, October 23, 2015

Information About Governor's Attorneys Must Be Released under FOIA

The PAC issued its 10th binding opinion of 2015 recently. Unfortunately, as with so many other PAC opinions, there is little guidance to local governments on OMA/FOIA issues.  As we've noted in the past, the binding opinions typically have little relevancy to the day-to-day requests and issues faced by Illinois local governments.  Lately, they've dealt with "one-off" issues such as the Governor's calendar and the Governor's lawyers.  The advisory opinions, on the other hand, could be quite helpful to public bodies, if only the PAC would make them more publicly accessible on its website.

Anyway, PAC Op. 15-010 deals with a reporter's request for information listing all outside counsel used by the state of Illinois for 2014 and 2015. The request was denied based on the "attorney-client communication" exemption in 7(1)(m) of FOIA. The PAC rejected the Governor's cited exemption, finding that the responsive records (which listed the law firm or attorney, hourly rate or flat rate, the agency represented, and the general subject matter of the work) did not contain any privileged communications (i.e., details regarding the nature of services provided by the attorneys, the substance of the work performed, or matters discussed between attorneys and clients) that would fall under 7(1)(m).  The PAC also rejected the Governor's argument that the records were exempt as "attorney work product," holding that work product is limited to records that reveal the theories, mental impressions, or litigation plans. 

Finally, the PAC ordered the Governor to provide responsive records about all of the other law firms that were not included on the lists held by the Governor's office. The PAC rejected the Governor's argument that this would require it to create new records, finding that it could compile a variety of other records containing the information requested by the reporter, even if the information did not exist in the list format requested by the reporter. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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