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State of Illinois – FOIA Manipulation? “UPDATED”

Illinois  (ECWd) –

With the people’s trust in government at an all time low, every action taken by the government is coming into question.  Illinois is at the top of the list when it comes to government actions and lack of trust.

There was a recent change in the Freedom of Information Act, that placed additional burdens on the public.  Financial burdens for records that even the Illinois Supreme Court has stated belong to the citizens.  In fact, our very Illinois State Constitution states that “reports and records of the obligation, receipt and use of public funds of the state, units of local government and school districts are public records available for inspection by the public according to law.

After the passing of the amendment to the FOIA law, we are now getting multiple public bodies placing us in the very category passed.  A category that creates substantial financial burdens on the requester, in this case it is us.  After numerous back and forth correspondence I was perplexed as to what part of the law they don’t understand, as they insist on calling our request voluminous.

As passed and signed into law, a voluminous request is defined in the bill as:

(h) “Voluminous request” means a request that: (i) includes more than 5 individual requests or more than 5 different categories of records or a combination of individual requests that total requests for more than 5 different categories of records in a period of 20 business days; or (ii) requires the compilation of more than 500 letter or legal-sized pages of public records unless a single requested record exceeds 500 pages. “Single requested record” may include, but is not limited to, one report, form, e-mail, letter, memorandum, book, map, microfilm, tape, or recording.

“Voluminous request” does not include a request made by news media and non-profit, scientific, or academic organizations if the principal purpose of the request is: (1)to access and disseminate information concerning news and current or passing events; (2) for articles of opinion or features of interest to the public; or (3) for the purpose of academic, scientific, or public research or education. For the purposes of this subsection (h), “request” means a written document, or oral request, if the public body chooses to honor oral requests, that is submitted to a public body via personal delivery, mail, telefax, electronic mail, or other means available to the public body and that identifies the particular public record or records the requester seeks. One request may identify multiple individual records to be inspected or copied.  (Click here for PDF of the actual bill passed and signed into law)

Up Jumps the Devil!

When you go to the on-line link for the Illinois Compiled Statutes and select the Freedom of Information Act there is a rather disturbing problem!

There is no definition for voluminous request in the on-line statute! 

Even though they do list all the fees for a voluminous request the exemptions to that category are not found, thus public bodies are trying to make some money!   (Click here for link – TEXT SUBJECT TO CHANGE BY THE STATE AFTER THEY READ THIS ARTICLE!)

Note that when comparing the actual bill passed and signed by the Governor, to what the state has posted on line for people to follow, it is not the same.  That is disturbing to me.  That type of a mistake is pretty tough to be a simple over-site in my opinion, especially if lawyers are handling this type of information…….or is that the problem? Who proof-read what was posted for the public to follow?

So now the question is, was the failure to place the definition of voluminous request in the updated law, which outlines multiple agencies are exempt, simply an over-site or was it an intentional gotcha!

Clearly some public bodies have already attempted to use it as a Gotcha, so I assume they are depending on the State of Illinois on-line version of the law instead of reading the actual law that was passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.

We have contacted numerous government over-site organizations as well as our legislature to fix this troubling mistake!

*UPDATE: After notifying Senator Chapin Rose this matter was resolved in approximately 6 hours!  Thank you to Senator Rose for taking the steps to ensure the public is reading accurate statutes! 

2 replies »

  1. Kirk,sounds like Deana up at the Township Office here in Arcola helped write the law.How many times have the ECWD requested information through FOIA and they either did not answer,or not fully answer.Through their attorney of coarse.

  2. Thank you for getting involved in this issue John and Kirk. I have submitted several FOIA request lately to my city and county government agencies and have experienced some push back and incomplete records back from them. I constantly have to remind them of the current FOIA laws. They obviously are trying to interpret them how they want and to their advantage. They assume most people are not informed enough to know the difference and hope people just take their word for it without actually reading the bills that were passed into law recently. You must demand our government to be held accountable to We the People or they won’t. And be willing to sue them in civil lawsuits for FOIA violations to the law. Hit them where it counts, in their wallets. Sue them if they won’t comply to the FOIA laws on the books. Enough lawsuits from multiple citizens and organizations for FOIA violations and they will eventually comply with the law more easily out of necessity to avoid the costs of legal fees and the judgements against them. They pay attention when money is involved and/or public exposure. Get informed. Get involved.

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