Public Access Opinion 18-008

The Public Body’s Burden When Denying a Request as an Unduly Burdensome Repeated Request

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 18-008
Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Cook County Health and Hospital System (CCHHS) violated FOIA by improperly withholding an amendment to an agreement for mental health services showing the fixed monthly amount that CCHHS pays for each recipient of services. On March 28, 2018, CCHHS received a FOIA request for a copy of an amendment to an agreement that was signed by CCHHS on May 15, 2015, and that showed a fixed monthly rate that CCHHS agreed to pay for mental health services via the amendment. On March 29, 2018, CCHHS denied the FOIA request, alleging that the requestor had already requested the very same document on May 22, 2015, and that CCHHS had provided the document to her with appropriate redactions. As a result, CCHHS denied the 2018 FOIA request under Section 3(g) of FOIA. Section 3(g) permits a public body to deny a request as unduly burdensome if it is a repeat request from the same requestor for the same records that are unchanged or identical to records that were “previously provided or properly denied.”

While the older, May 2015 FOIA request had in fact been for the same record, the PAC had actually reviewed that request and found that CCHHS’s redaction of the fixed monthly rate was improper. Because CCHHS’s original redaction was improper, the PAC found that CCHHS could not deny the requestor’s 2018 request using Section 3(g). The PAC ordered CCHHS to provide the requestor with the document she sought, without redacting the financial information at issue.

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