Public Access Opinion 18-001

Portions of Mayor’s Resignation E-mail Were Improperly Withheld Under Exemptions for Preliminary Drafts and Public Body’s Adjudication of Employee Grievances and Disciplinary Cases

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 18-001
Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The PAC found that the Village of Hudson (Village) violated FOIA when it improperly redacted portions of its mayor’s resignation e-mail in responding to a FOIA request submitted on October 4, 2017. The Village attempted to argue that the redacted material was exempt under Section 7(1)(f), which, in relevant part, exempts from disclosure records “in which opinions are express, or policies or actions are formulate.” The Village claimed the redacted text was a record in which an opinion was expressed that was not the final policy of the Village. The Village also claimed that the portions of the e-mail were exempt under Section 7(1)(n) because the material related to the Village’s adjudication of an employee grievance or disciplinary case.

After reviewing an unredacted copy of the resignation letter, the PAC found that the Village’s assertions were without merit. Regarding Section 7(1)(f), the PAC noted that while the redacted text may have reflected the mayor’s opinion about the circumstances leading to his resignation, the opinion expressed was not part of the “give-and-take of the deliberative process;” rather, the mayor’s decision was a single communication, and his decision to resign had already been made. The PAC also found that Section 7(1)(n) did not apply because the Village failed to identify a grievance, complaint, or disciplinary action that was adjudicated, nor was the e-mail generated during a formal proceeding that could be considered an “adjudication.” The PAC ordered the Village to provide an unredacted copy of the former mayor’s email to the FOIA requester.

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