Last month, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office released a Public Access Opinion indicating that the Governor’s Office improperly redacted information from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Specifically, the Public Access Opinion found that Governor Rauner’s calendar, which was shared by way of Microsoft Outlook between himself, his personal assistant, and senior staff, was subject to a FOIA request.
The request in question sought documents showing “Gov. Bruce Rauner’s appointments from April 1, 2015 to May 14, 2015. The record *** should include the times and dates of any and all meetings and functions attended by the governor as well as, in the event of meetings, the names and titles of meeting attendees.” In response to this request, the Governor’s Office submitted a redacted version of his calendar.
In its opinion, the Attorney General’s Office found that based on the description of the calendar submitted by the Governor’s Office it was a public record. Notably, the calendar was prepared and maintained by a state employee, accessible to senior staff through the State’s email system, and used to organize the Governor’s time.
Additionally, the Attorney General found that all of the redacted entries on this public record appeared to pertain to public business, as opposed to private affairs or private business interests, and as such were subject to FOIA. Moreover, the Attorney General also found that the Governor’s Office failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that any portion of the responsive records fell within the FOIA disclosure exemptions. Section 7(1)(f) and 7(1)(m) pertain to documents that express opinions and the attorney client privilege, respectively.
Municipalities should therefore be aware that any calendars used for scheduling, even if only dispersed to a limited number of people, could be subject to a FOIA request.
Authors: David McArdle, Jacob Caudill