Public Access Opinion 17-005

Statistical Data is Not Exempt from Disclosure under Section 7(1)(f) of FOIA

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 17-005
Date: Monday, June 12, 2017

A public body violated FOIA by improperly denying a request under Section 7(1)(f). The requestor submitted a FOIA request to the Village of Oak Park (Village) asking for “the traffic counts from the roadway monitoring operations conducted on 10/25/16, 10/26/16 for the following roads: Washington Blvd, Madison Street and Jackson Blvd” and “the traffic counts from the roadway monitoring operations conducted on 11/11/16 for Madison Street.” The Village denied the request under Section 7(1)(f), claiming that “the traffic counts are in draft form and have not been publicly released.”

Section 7(1)(f) of FOIA exempts from disclosure “[p]reliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expressed, or policies or actions are formulated, except that a specific record or relevant portion of a record shall not be exempt when the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.” Factual information is not exempt from disclosure unless the information is inextricably intertwined with a deliberative process in a way that its disclosure would reveal the deliberative process.

The PAC found that although the traffic counts being requested were part of a preliminary traffic study, they are purely factual and the public body did not sustain its burden of demonstrating that the traffic counts were inextricably intertwined with a deliberative process or that their disclosure would reveal any aspect of any deliberative process, thereby violating the requirements of FOIA. The pubic body was directed to take immediate and appropriate action to disclose to the requestor a copy of those portions of the traffic study containing the traffic counts that were requested.

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

Cassandra Black, IASB Law Clerk