Public Access Opinion 17-007

Failure to Respond to a FOIA Request

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 17-007
Date: Monday, June 26, 2017

The City of Benton (City) violated FOIA by failing to comply with, deny in whole or in part, or otherwise appropriately respond to a FOIA request. On February 17, 2017, an individual submitted a request for “agendas and meeting minutes for Benton Airport for calendar years 2013, 2014 & 2015.” Within five days, an Airport Board Member responded to request a five day extension to substantively respond, stating the Airport Board had not appointed a FOIA director yet. On March 11, 2017, the requestor had yet to receive a response and requested the PAC review the City’s failure to respond. Next, the City told the PAC that “the Benton Municipal Airport” is a separate entity from the City and therefore the City was not responsible for responding to FOIA requests directed to the Airport.

The PAC found that the City violated Section 3(d) of FOIA by failing to provide the requested records or to respond in writing to the FOIA request. The PAC reasoned that though the Airport Board Member sent the requestor a letter on February 17, 2017, FOIA does not allow a public body to extend the timeline for response for the reason stated in the letter (that the Airport did not have a FOIA director). Moreover, the PAC was not persuaded that the City and Airport are separate entities, and instead found that the Airport is “City-owned property.” Therefore, the City is the public body ultimately responding to the FOIA request. The PAC ordered the City to immediately provide all records in response to the FOIA requestor, subject only to any permissible redactions under Section 7.

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