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Monday, January 4, 2021

Summary of 2020 PAC Binding Opinions

As we do every year, we are summarizing all of the Attorney General's binding PAC opinions so you can find them all in one place on the blog. It couldn't be easier this year, as the PAC only issued ten binding opinions this entire year (3 of which came in the last month). We typically see about 15 or so binding opinions each year. Note that we had not yet written up the 9th or 10th binding opinion in separate posts since they came out the last couple of days of the year, so you may want to check those summaries out even if you have read posts about the other binding opinions.

PAC Op. 20-001 (minutes approval)

In PAC 20-001, the PAC found a public body in violation of the Open Meetings Act for failing to approve its meeting minutes in the time limits required by that statute. 

PAC Op. 20-002 (failure to respond)

In PAC 20-002, the PAC found a public body in violation of FOIA for failing to respond to a FOIA request and to the PAC's request for review. Nothing groundbreaking or new here - public bodies are obligated to respond to FOIA requests. 

PAC Op. 20-003 (improper redactions)

In PAC Op. 2020-03, the PAC office found an Illinois agency in violation of FOIA for improperly redacting certain information contained in cannabis business license applications, although the PAC did acknowledge that the agency could properly redact birth dates under 7(1)(c) of FOIA.

PAC Op. 20-004 (personnel evaluation process not exempt)

In PAC Op. 2020-04, the PAC found an Illinois local school council violated the Open Meetings Act when it discussed the timing and process for the school principal's evaluation in closed session. The PAC determined that the “personnel” exemption was limited to discussion of the individual employee’s performance, but not the process for evaluating the employee.

PAC Op. 20-005 (accident reports)

In PAC Op. 2020-05, the PAC found a public body in violation of FOIA for denying various records pertaining to a fatal car accident. The PAC rejected the public body's reliance on the FOIA exemption contained in section 7(1)(d)(iii) which allows a public body to withhold information that creates a substantial likelihood of depriving a person of a fair trial or impartial hearing.  

PAC Op. 20-006 (records in possession of contractor)

The PAC found that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) improperly denied a FOIA request that sought copies of aggregate data on head injuries incurred by inmates in IDOC custody and policies for evaluating head injuries of IDOC inmates and employees.

The PAC found a public body in violation of the Open Meetings Act where a member of the public body muted the meeting for a short period. however, the PAC did not find a violation where the public body did not allow in-person attendance by the public where remote access was available to the public.

PAC Op. 20-008 (juvenile victims)

The PAC found a public body in violation of FOIA for withholding a police report involving a juvenile victim. The PAC noted that the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 protects records relating to juvenile suspects but not victims. Since the requested record identified a juvenile victim and not a juvenile committing or suspected of committing an offense, the records were not exempt under that Act.

The PAC found a police department in violation of FOIA when it failed to turn over portions of arrest records relating to an arrestee to a watchdog group. The PAC cited to Sections 2.15(a) and (c) in finding that the department was required to provide the requester with at least information that would identify arrestees, including their names, ages, addresses, and photographs (when and if available), and information detailing any charges relating to the arrests. Although two of the arrestees had not yet gone to trial, the PAC rejected the department's reliance on the FOIA exemption that allows a law enforcement agency to withhold records if disclosure would interfere with pending law enforcement proceedings.

PAC Op. 20-010 (assessment records)

The PAC found a county assessor's office in violation of FOIA when it failed to respond to a request for various records regarding the division of property. Nothing new here.


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