Public Access Opinion 17-006

Disclosure of Information Related to State Employees Designated as Essential

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 17-006
Date: Monday, June 12, 2017

A public body violated FOIA by improperly denying a request. A requestor submitted a request to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) asking for records “sufficient to show the job titles, locations, and numbers of employees in each category which the Department of Corrections considers essential and who would be required to report to work in the event of interruption in state employee pay and the closing of some offices and services.” IDOC denied the request, claiming that “to the extent documents exist, [the documents] are exempt” under Section 7(1)(m) and 7(1)(f), but did not provide a detailed factual explanation supporting its assertion of either exemption.

Under Section 7(1)(m), records are exempt from disclosure when they contain communications of attorneys and provide “[c]ommunications between a public body and an attorney . . . representing the public body that would not be subject to discovery in litigation, and materials prepared or compiled by or for a public body in anticipation of a criminal, civil or administrative proceeding upon the request of an attorney advising the public[.]”

Records are exempt under Section 7(1)(f) when they are “[p]reliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated, except that a specific record or relevant portion of a record shall not be exempt when the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.”

The PAC found IDOC’s response was improper, as the validity of the asserted exemptions could not be determined without confirmation that responsive records exist. Additionally, IDOC did not sustain its burden of demonstrating that the records qualified for exemptions under 7(1)(m) or 7(1)(m). The PAC ordered the public body to immediately disclose the records in response to the FOIA requestor.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.

Cassandra Black, IASB Law Clerk