Illinois Public Access Counselor Releases Fourth Opinion of 2016

Author: Jacob D. Caudill

July 7, 2016

Late last month, the Illinois Public Access Counselor issued an opinion finding that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Specifically, the request, submitted on April 5, 2016, sought CPD staffing level information and personnel orders.

On April 20, 2016, the requester received an email from CPD with an attached letter dated April 13, 2016, stating that the CPD was extending its time to respond by five days. The CPD referenced Section 3(e)(ii) of FOIA, and indicated that extension was for the “collection of a substantial number of specified records, if any exist.” On April 22, 2016, the requester responded noting the discrepancy in dates and asking when the documents would be ready. CPD responded that it was still waiting on records and would inform the requester further on April 29. Thereafter, CPD refused to provide the requester with a specific date upon which the records would be available.

In reviewing the matter, the Attorney General concluded that the CPD violated FOIA by failing, within five business days after receiving the requester’s April 5, 2016, FOIA request, to provide the requested records, to properly extend the time for its response pursuant to Section 3(e) of FOIA, or to deny the request in whole or in part.

While this opinion is not surprising by any means, it serves as a reminder that public bodies should act diligently when responding to FOIA requests.