Public Access Opinion 17-014

Failure to Meet the “Purpose and Intent” of FOIA Is Not a Basis for Denial of a FOIA Request

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 17-014
Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2017

McClean County (County) violated FOIA by denying a request made on September 6, 2017, for copies of recent FOIA requests submitted to the County and its responses to those requests. The County denied the FOIA request on the basis that it “did not meet the purpose and intent of [FOIA].” It believed that the requester was improperly trying to obtain information about private individuals rather than information concerning government. The County, however, did not assert any specific statutory exemptions under FOIA in its denial. The PAC found that the County’s denial of the request was improper because under Section 3(c) of FOIA, public bodies may not “require the requester to specify the purpose for a request, except to determine whether the records are requested for a commercial purpose or whether to grant a request for a fee waiver.” FOIA does not allow a public body to deny a FOIA request based on what it believes to be the underlying motive of the request. The PAC ordered the County to provide records responsive to the FOIA request, subject only to redactions permitted under Section 7 of FOIA.

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