Discipline Records More Than Four Years Old Are Exempt from FOIA Disclosure Under Personnel Records Review Act
On June 19, 2018, the Third District Appellate Court of Illinois (Court) found that the Joliet Police Department (Joliet) properly refused to disclose an officer’s disciplinary records which were more than four years old based upon Section 7.5(q) of FOIA (5 ILCS 140/7.5(q)) and Section 8 of the Personnel Records Review Act (“PRRA,” 820 ILCS 40/8).
Here, FOIA requestor Maceo Johnson requested the disciplinary history of one of Joliet’s officers. Joliet denied Johnson’s FOIA request, citing Section 8 of the PRRA, which prohibits employers from releasing to a third party records of disciplinary action which are more than four years old. “Information prohibited from being disclosed under the Personnel Records Review Act” is statutorily exempt from inspection and copying by Section 7.5(q) of FOIA. Johnson, however, argued that the PRRA’s prohibitions do not apply to FOIA requests because Section 11 of the PRRA states that “This Act shall not be construed to diminish a right of access to records already otherwise provided by law, provided that disclosure of performance evaluations under the [FOIA] shall be prohibited.”
Reviewing the interplay of FOIA and the PRRA, and interpreting them so that no word or phrase would be rendered superfluous or meaningless, the Court found that Johnson’s argument failed. “To avoid rendering section 7.5(q) of FOIA wholly meaningless, we find that the prohibition on disclosure of disciplinary records more than four years old, found in section 8 of the [PRRA], is applicable to FOIA requests and that such records are thus exempt from FOIA.”