Public Access Opinion 23-006

Duty to Respond to FOIA Requests

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 23-006
Date: Wednesday, May 3, 2023

On December 13, 2022, a reporter submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Chicago Public Library (Library) seeking copies of e-mail correspondence concerning Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s appearance at an October 12, 2018, Library event. On December 14, 2023, the Library acknowledged receiving the FOIA request and extended its time to respond by five business days.

On February 15, 2023, the reporter submitted a Request for Review to the Public Access Counselor (PAC) alleging that the Library had failed to respond to his FOIA request. The PAC forwarded a copy of the Request for Review to the Library and asked whether the Library had provided a substantive response to the FOIA request. The Library did not respond directly but sent the reporter an email on March 3, 2023, copying the PAC. The e-mail stated that the Library planned to expand its search for responsive records and would respond as soon as possible.

On March 17, 2023, the reporter informed the PAC that the Library still had not substantively responded to his request. On March 24, 2023, the PAC sent a second letter and copies of previous correspondence to the Library’s Director of Government and Public Affairs. The Library did not respond to that letter.

As of the date of the issuance of this binding opinion, the PAC still has not received information indicating that the Library has provided a substantive response to the reporter’s FOIA request.

Section 3(d) of FOIA provides that “each public body shall, promptly, either comply with or deny a request for public records within 5 business days after its receipt of the request, unless the time for response is properly extended under subsection (e) of this Section.”

The PAC concluded that the Library violated section 3(d) of FOIA by failing to comply with, deny in whole or in part, or otherwise appropriately respond to the FOIA request submitted on December 13, 2022.

The PAC directed the Library to provide the reporter with copies of all records responsive to his December 13, 2022, request, subject only to permissible redactions, if any, under Section 7 of FOIA. If the Library determines that any portion of the responsive records is exempt from disclosure under Section 7, the PAC directed the Library to issue a written denial that fully complies with the requirements of section 9(a) 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