FOIA: Emails and text messages
This opinion upheld binding opinion from the Public Access Counselor, PAO 11-6. PAO 11-6 required the City of Champaign to provide certain emails and text messages stored on public officials’ private computers and electronic devices in response to a FOIA request. The opinion narrowed PAO 11-6 by instructing that emails and text messages stored on private devices of public officials are “public records” only when the communications are sent or received during a public meeting (as opposed to being public records when they “pertain to the transaction of public business. . .”).
School officials should contact their local board attorney for assistance. It is worth noting that it may be possible to transform a private non-public record into a public record by accessing private emails and text messages that have nothing to do with the “transaction of public business” during public meetings. At the time of publication, it is unclear whether this case will be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court.