Attorney General Issues Second Binding PAC Opinion of 2017Author: Jacob D. Caudill
Last month, the Illinois Attorney General released the second binding Public Access Opinion of 2017. In this opinion, the Attorney General found that a municipality violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to disclose information relating to a police pursuit.
Specifically, an individual submitted an FOIA request seeking a copy of the police report and any documents relating to the underlying police pursuit. However, the municipality failed to respond to the request and further ignored the Public Access Bureau when it inquired about the lack of a response.
Though the municipality did eventually indicate that someone was working to “fulfill [the] request,” no formal response was ever given by the municipality. Unsurprisingly, the Attorney General found the municipality to have violated the FOIA.
Unfortunately, the opinion does not provide any new guidance, as the FOIA mandates a response to all valid requests. However, the Attorney General must have found some probative value in issuing the opinion as binding. According to Public Access Counselor (PAC) Annual Report, an Overview of 2016, the PAC only issued 15 binding opinions in 2016. Last year, the PAC received 4,720 formal requests for assistance. The Annual Report breaks down these requests as follows:
Freedom of Information Act (4,354 total requests)
- 3,640 from members of the public
- 681 from media outlets or other organizations
- 33 from public bodies
Open Meetings Act (366 total requests)
- 297 from members of the public
- 66 from media outlets or other organizations
- 3 from public bodies
While only 15 of these requests resulted in binding opinions, the Attorney General indicates that the “PAC successfully resolved thousands of disputes over the release of records through negotiations with requesters and public bodies and the issuance of non-binding determinations.”