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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Summary of 2023 Binding PAC Opinions (FOIA)

It's that time of year when we close out 2023 with a summary of the binding opinions issued by the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor's office (PAC). To-date, the PAC has issued 15 binding opinions, which are all published on the Attorney General's website. Today, we will focus on the PAC’s 9 binding opinions on FOIA.

PAC Op. 23-001, PAC Op. 23-011, PAC Op. 23-012 (failure to respond to FOIA requests)

In binding opinions PAC Op. 23-001PAC Op. 23-011, and PAC Op. 23-012), the PAC found that several public bodies violated FOIA by failing to respond to FOIA requests. 

PAC Op. 23-002 (employee survey results)

In PAC Op. 23-002, the PAC found that a public body properly denied a FOIA request seeking certain employee survey results used in connection with preparing performance evaluations for staff members pursuant to FOIA section 7(1)(f). 

PAC Op. 23-007 (request improperly denied as unduly burdensome)

In PAC Op. 23-007, the PAC determined that a public body improperly denied a categorical FOIA request for emails as unduly burdensome. The PAC found that the city’s insistence that the requester identify specific employees or email addresses was unreasonable, because the city was required to make “judgment calls” to identify specific employees whose emails are reasonably likely to contain responsive records since the public body is in a better position than members of the public to know which employees are likely to have sent or received emails on a particular subject. 

PAC Op. 23-008 (request improperly classified as commercial request)

In PAC Op. 23-008, the PAC found that a public body violated FOIA by improperly categorizing a FOIA request as a commercial request and imposing an improper "review" fee. 

PAC Op. 23-009 (public body employee arrest and conviction record)

In PAC Op. 23-009, the PAC determined that a public body violated FOIA by withholding police reports concerning a teacher who was arrested and convicted of a crime against a minor victim. The PAC disagreed with the police department’s claim that the entire report was exempt from disclosure because of the risk of disclosing the minor's identity.

PAC Op. 23-010 (juvenile law enforcement records)

In PAC Op. 23-010, the PAC found that a public body did not violate FOIA by withholding arrest report in its entirety that involved a minor arrestee, even though the report also included information about an adult arrestee. Because the police report at issue involved the investigation of multiple minors and charges against one minor, the PAC determined that the record was a “juvenile law enforcement record” under the Juvenile Court Act (JCA), which are confidential and prohibited from being disclosed except to certain authorized parties.

PAC Op. 23-015 (non-disclosure agreement)

In PAC Op. 23-015, the PAC found that a city violated FOIA by withholding a non-disclosure agreement between the city and a private developer concerning a development project from disclosure pursuant to FOIA exemption 7(1)(g) which protects trade secrets or other confidential information that would cause competitive harm if disclosed. 

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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