Public Access Opinion 17-001

Improper Denial of a FOIA Request

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 17-001
Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A public body violated FOIA by improperly denying a request under Section 7(1)(d)(i). The requestor requested an Illinois State Police (ISP) field report. ISP responded by denying the request in its entirety under 7(1)(d)(i) of FOIA, claiming that disclosure of the requested information “would interfere with pending or actually and reasonably contemplated law enforcement proceeding[s] conducted by [a] law enforcement agency.” When a public body denies a request claiming statutory exemption, the burden is on the governmental agency to prove that specific documents fit within the statutory exemption.

The PAC found that while ISP’s response to the FOIA included the statutory language of Section 7(1)(d)(i), it did not provide a “detailed factual basis” for its application as is required by Section 9(a). The PAC concluded that ISP did not sustain its burden of demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the field report is exempt from disclosure in its entirety.

The PAC ordered ISP to immediately disclose the field report to the requestor. In response to ISP’s claim that the report contains information that is exempt, the PAC stated ISP may redact from the report any “private information” which is exempt under 7(1)(b) and dates of birth which are exempt under Section 7(1)(c), but if ISP redacts any information, it must include a written denial that identifies the basis for each redaction and other requirements of Section 9(a).

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

Cassandra Black, IASB Law Clerk