Public Access Opinion 21-005

Improper Redaction of Employee Attendance Records

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 21-005
Date: Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Village of Morton Grove Police Department (Police Department) violated FOIA when it improperly denied a request for employee attendance records.
On January 19, 2021, Requestor, on behalf of an organization called “Northwest Side Coalition Against Racism & Hate”, submitted a FOIA request for employee attendance records from the Police Department. Specifically, the request sought records showing the names, star numbers, respective dates, and the type of time off taken by Police Department officers and employees between January 1, 2021 to January 8, 2021 as well as from January 1, 2020 to January 8, 2020.
The Police Department provided Requestor with copies of responsive schedules on February 5, 2021. However, all of the identifying data was redacted by the Police Department, which cited Section 7(1)(v) of FOIA to justify the redaction. Requestor sent a request for review to the PAC a few weeks later contesting the redactions. When the Village of Morton Grove (Village) provided the PAC with the requested materials weeks later, they cited Section 7(1)(d)(iv) of FOIA as a justification for the redactions as well.
Section 7(1)(v) of FOIA exempts public bodies from releasing, “[v]ulnerability assessments, security measures, and response policies or plans that are designed to identify, prevent, or respond to potential attacks upon a community's population or systems” that could pose “a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the community[.]” Similarly, Section 7(1)(d)(iv) of FOIA exempts the release of information that would, “endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person[.]”
The PAC noted in its opinion that the Village failed to demonstrate that a basic employee attendance record constitutes a protected piece of information under Section 7(1)(v). The PAC also stated that the Village did not provide any factual information to support its claim that the unredacted attendance records would endanger anyone’s life or safety under Section 7(1)(d)(iv). For these reasons, the PAC directed the Police Department to release the attendance records without redactions to Requestor. 
This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.