Illinois (ECWd) -
The ongoing battle to force the Governor to release a known and established guideline he implemented regarding Freedom of Information Act requests to State Agencies has finally been ruled on. Governor Rauner has been ordered by the courts to turn over their "Guidelines" relating to Freedom of Information Act requests to state agencies.
"Defendant's FOIA Section 11(e) Index are not exempt under FOIA Section 7(1)(f), and Defendant shall produce the same to Plaintiff."
Andrew Garrett with Garret Discovery, a forensic computer services company brought the suit after numerous tips the Governor was putting political concerns ahead of FOIA compliance throughout the State of Illinois through a set of guidelines.
"As a forensic expert I often have to FOIA government to gain an understanding of a policy or procedure. I was told that certain FOIA requests were being denied by the Governor's office because it could hurt the governor's race or the reputation of an agency director. Additionally, I worked on an FOIA lawsuit for Representative Dwight Kay where it was exposed that a government agency wrote a memo to its managers detailing how to evade FOIA. For the government to fight for a year against transparency and withhold the very policy they use in responding to FOIA requests shows just how bad our current system is. We as taxpayers deserve transparency regardless of party or leadership. The government cannot take a position that transparency is an option only to be used to shine a light on successes and hide failures. I urge the Governor to call and we can work together with others to fix this broken system." Andrew Garett - Garett Discovery
Although the guidelines implemented by the Governor have not yet been released, we understand from numerous sources that the guidelines put in place were done as a method to ensure no political harm comes to the Governor from records that may be released under FOIA by State Agencies. The Order from the court outlined some troubling steps that apparently were part of the Governor's guidelines and raises many questions regarding FOIA and why such a directive was ever put in place.
"By its own description, they "delineate" with specificity the information that State agencies are to provide to the Office of the Governor regarding outstanding FOIA requests, discuss with whom those communications should occur, and set a timetable for how often State agencies are to do so. This description indicates that the Guidelines were directive, not deliberative, sent from the Governor's office to subordinate agencies instructing them on what the actual policy was at the time they were sent."
Why would State Agencies be required to provide outstanding FOIA request information to the Governor and such communications to occur with a specific person? The Order outlined the guideline delineates with specificity the information the State Agencies are to provide. It will be most telling to see what this "guideline" contains.
We suspect the ruled on record will not be released prior to the election. Consider the fight they put up to not release it in the first place it would not surprise us to see them Appeal this ruling in order to buy time. Buy time is all it will do as it is clear the courts recognized this public record is not exempt. If the record is released we would encourage the court to perform an in camera review to ensure the released document is, in fact, the same document the Judge saw when making his ruling.
What is more disturbing to us is the fact the Governor chose to fight transparency on a public record, which has been the norm for this and past Governors.
You can download the order at this link or view below.