Appellate Court Finds City Violated FOIA by Inappropriately Withholding ReportsAuthor: Jacob D. Caudill
April 29, 2016
A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision held that the City of Peoria violated Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) after it refused to disclose a police officer’s special report that ultimately led to disciplinary adjudication. In asserting that the special report was exempt under Section 7(1)(n) of FOIA, the City argued that:
- the report was created in the course of an administrative enforcement proceeding and would have interfered with a pending law enforcement proceeding
- the report related to a public body’s adjudication of employee grievances or disciplinary cases.
However, the Appellate Court disagreed. Section 7(1)(n) of FOIA provides an exemption for “[r]ecords relating to a public body’s adjudication of employee grievances or disciplinary cases.” Here, the Court determined that the requested report was created well before any adjudication took place and existed independent of any adjudication. Further, the fact that the report “later led to disciplinary action against two officers is insufficient to make it exempt under FOIA.”
As such, municipalities should be aware that any reports ultimately leading to adjudication of employee grievances or disciplinary cases may be non-exempt under FOIA.