Urbana, IL. (ECWd) -
After reviewing a City of Urbana meeting video, I learned that the city is using all available research methods to try and identify the names of who they receive Freedom Of Information Act ["FOIA"] requests from.
I submitted an FOIA request for all communications where the city demanded the identification of FOIA requesters, and the city provided those records to me.
It appears as if the city is more concerned about who is requesting the information than they are about actually providing what is requested. For instance, in their letter to a requester, they demand a payment of $27.97 for 11.38 MB of data, which included a USB flash drive at a cost of $7.97. They also told the requester that "When retrieving your records, you must present a government-issued photo identification document. To retrieve your records by U.S. mail, please provide a legible copy of your photo identification and a stamped, self-addressed 5" x 7" or larger envelope along with your payment."
We find no provision in the Freedom Of Information Act permitting any public body to demand identification of FOIA requesters, and no provision requiring an FOIA requester to provide any stamped, self-addressed envelope to the public body.
- AG Q&A: Can a request be made anonymously? For instance, e-mail requests are often submitted anonymously. Yes. A requester is not required to provide his or her name. (See page 6)
- Public Body must provide requested records TO the requester - cannot charge postage and cannot require requester to provide an envelope: See Section 6 of the FOI Act, where it is void of any mention of postage fees/costs, which means the public body cannot charge the requester for any envelopes or postage.
In the provided communications, the city insists they "must verify your identity to enforce FOIA's recurrent requester and voluminous request provisions." The city also claimed that if they cannot confirm the requester's identity, they may treat the request as one from a recurrent requester.
We suggest the city is wrong on both counts:
- there is no provision found in the FOIA for any public body to "enforce" recurrent requester or voluminous request provisions
- there is no provision found in the FOIA for a public body to classify anyone as a recurrent requester simply because they cannot confirm the requester's identity
Just like their recent moves to limit public comment time and subject matter restrictions, making demands of photo identification from FOIA requesters does nothing to further better governance.