Public Access Opinion 16-004

Freedom of Information Act: failure to respond to a FOIA request

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 16-004
Date: Monday, June 27, 2016

For the third time this calendar year, the PAC has told public bodies they must respond to FOIA requests. On April 5, 2016, a Chicago Sun-Times Staff Reporter (“Requestor”) submitted a FOIA request via email to the Chicago Police Department (CPD) for various district-by-district sworn CPD staffing levels and personnel orders. On April 20, 2016, CPD’s FOIA Officer sent an email to Requestor with an attached letter dated April 13, 2016 that stated CPD was extending the time period for its response under Section 3(e) by five business days. On April 22, 2016, Requestor emailed CPD to note that 10 business days had passed and to ask when the documents would be ready. On April 25, 2016, CPD’s FOIA Officer responded via email, stating he was waiting for records from another department and would update Requestor on April 29, 2016. On May 5, 2016, Requestor emailed CPD for a status update. On May 11, 2016, CPD’s FOIA Officer emailed Requestor to request an extension for a response. Requestor then requested a specific date on which the records would be ready, but CPD did not respond with a specific date. Even upon request by the Public Access Bureau, CPD did not provide Requestor with a response to his FOIA request. The PAC found that CPD violated Sections 3(a) and 3(b) of FOIA by failing, within five business days, to: respond to Requestor’s FOIA request; provide the requested records; properly extend the timeline for its response per Section 3(e); or deny the request in whole or in part. The PAC ordered CPD to immediately provide all responsive records to Requestor, subject only to any permissible redactions under Section 7 of FOIA. The bottom line here is that public bodies must respond to FOIA requests within the time permitted per statute.

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