Public Access Opinion 21-008

Duty to Respond to FOIA Requests

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 21-008
Date: Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Office of the Mayor of the City of Chicago (Mayor’s Office) violated FOIA when it failed to comply with a request for copies of text message conversations.
On June 17, 2021, Requestor, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune, submitted a FOIA request to the Mayor’s Office seeking copies of any and all text messages between the Mayor and two individuals from Loretto Hospital between December 1, 2020 through March 29, 2021. The request sought messages on personal and city-issued devices. This request was one of 20 FOIA requests that Requestor had re-submitted to the Mayor’s Office that day.
On June 24, the Mayor’s Office acknowledged that it had received the request. Citing section 3(e)(vii) of FOIA, the Mayor’s Office extended its time to respond by five business days. After the extended period for response had expired on July 6, 2021, the Requestor submitted the Request for Review to the PAC because he had still not received a response from the Mayor’s Office.
Section 3(e)(vii) of FOIA allows public bodies to extend the amount of time to respond to requests when “there is a need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another public body or among 2 or more components of a public body having a substantial interest in the determination or in the subject matter of the request.” It was acceptable for the Mayor’s Office to extend the deadline for a response. However, the Mayor’s Office violated section 3(d) of FOIA by failing, within the statutory time for responding, to provide the Requestor with copies of the requested records or to deny the request in writing in whole or in part. The PAC therefore directed the Mayor’s Office to deliver the copies of the messages to Requestor, subject only to permissible redactions.
This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.