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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Court Upholds PAC Opinion Rejecting Use of "Trade Secrets" Exemption

Previously, we reported on a PAC binding opinion finding a village in violation of FOIA for redacting certain financial information from contracts it released under FOIA. The requester had asked for records relating to financial incentives provided to Garth Brooks for a concert he performed at Allstate Arena. The village had provided the records, but redacted the amount of the financial incentives. The requester filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General (PAC office), which determined that the village had violated FOIA by redacting information that was not exempt from FOIA, and did not fall into the "trade secret" exemption. The PAC also rejected the village's argument that a local ordinance protected this information from release.

The village appealed the PAC's ruling in court, and just this week an appellate court upheld the PAC's ruling that the village violated FOIA in not turning over the financial information in the requested records. BGA v. Village of Rosemont. The court agreed that the "trade secrets" exemption did not apply to the rent and other financial incentive information within the requested contracts. The court also agreed that the village was preempted from adopting an ordinance that  attempted to exempt from public release information that is required to be released under FOIA, stating as follows:
Home rule units have the power to expand the duty to disclose, but they lack authority to exempt from disclosure documents and information for which FOIA mandates disclosure. 
As a result, the village was directed to release the information to the requester.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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