Better Gov’t Ass’n v. Ill. High Sch. Ass’n, 2017 IL 121124 (Ill. 2017).

IHSA Not a Public Body Subject to FOIA, IHSA’s Records Are Not Public Records of One of Its Member Public School Districts

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Better Gov’t Ass’n v. Ill. High Sch. Ass’n, 2017 IL 121124 (Ill. 2017).
Date: Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Better Government Association (BGA) issued a FOIA to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) for all of its contracts for accounting, legal, sponsorship, and public relations/crisis communications services and all licensed vendor applications for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years. The IHSA responded that it was a not-for-profit charitable organization not subject to FOIA. BGA subsequently requested the same records from District 230, a member public school district of IHSA. The District responded that it did not have the requested records, and that the requested records did not fall under section 7(2) of FOIA because they were not prepared by or for the District, were not used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of the District, and did not pertain to the transaction of the District’s public business. BGA challenged the denials by filing a complaint against both IHSA and the District. IHSA and the District filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted, finding that IHSA is not a public body subject to FOIA and that Section 7(2) of FOIA did not apply to the District because IHSA was not performing a governmental function on behalf of the District. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision. It found that IHSA does not fall within one of the specifically enumerated bodies of the State or local government, and used a four-part test to determine that it is not “any subsidiary” of a governmental unit subject to FOIA.

The Court also looked at whether IHSA contracted with District 230 to perform a governmental function on the District’s behalf and, if so, whether the requested records were directly related to that governmental function. The Court found that the responsibility to govern and coordinate interscholastic athletic competitions for public and private school students is not one of the functions of the District as set forth in the School Code. Therefore, IHSA was not acting on behalf of the District to perform the District’s responsibilities, nor did the District delegate any of its governmental functions to the IHSA. Because IHSA was not contracted to perform a governmental function on behalf of the District, the requested records are not public records of the District under Section 7(2) of the FOIA.

Cassandra Black, IASB Law Clerk