Public Access Opinion 23-001

Failure to Respond to FOIA Request Violates Section 3(d) of FOIA

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 23-001
Date: Thursday, January 12, 2023

On August 12, 2022, Requestor submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Proviso Township High School District 209 (District) seeking any records relating to staffing levels for teachers in school year 2023. The District did not respond to the request. At the District’s Board of Education (Board) meeting on September 13, 2022 the District acknowledged having received Requestor’s FOIA request in its FOIA report to the Board, stating that “information will be provided”.  

On October 13 and 14, 2022, Requestor filed a Request for Review with the Public Access Counselor (PAC) in which he alleged that the District had failed to respond to his FOIA request.

On October 21, 2022, the PAC emailed the District asking if the District had received the request and directing the District to respond to the request and to send a copy of the response to the PAC. On November 15, 2022, The PAC re-sent the October 21, 2022 letter to the District. On November 16, 2022, The PAC sent a letter to the FOIA Officer for the District, explaining that the PAC had not received any indication that the District had responded to Requestor’s request. The District did not respond to PAC correspondence.

Section 3(a) of FOIA provides that “each public body shall make available to any person for inspection or copying all public records…” Section 3(d) of FOIA further provides, “Each public body shall, promptly, either comply with or deny a request or public records within 5 business days after its receipt of the request… Failure to comply with a written request, extend the time for response, or deny a request within 5 business days after its receipt shall be considered a denial of the request.”

The PAC found that the District did not respond to Requestor’s August 12, 2022 FOIA request within five business days after its receipt by either complying with the request, extending the time for its response pursuant to section 3(e) of FOIA, or denying the request in writing. The failure of the District to comply with the requisite response procedures violated section 3(d) of FOIA. The PAC ordered the District to take immediate and appropriate action to provide Requestor with all records responsive to his August 12, 2022 request, subject only to permissible redactions, if any, under section 7 of FOIA.

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

Mary H. Bandstra, IASB Law Clerk