Municipalities Remain in Limbo Without Ruling from Attorney General on FOIA

Municipalities Remain in Limbo Without Ruling from Attorney General on FOIA
SHARE THIS STORY
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    1
    Share

Municipalities Remain in Limbo Without Ruling from Attorney General on FOIA

With reduced staffing, focus must remain on providing essential services and public health

Nearly 200 mayors across the state have joined the Illinois Municipal League (IML) in urging Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office to issue an advisory opinion to grant public bodies additional time to respond to public information requests amid the COVID-19 pandemic in order to avoid costly fines and legal fees. For three weeks, municipalities across Illinois, including the City of Chicago, have operated in limbo without clarification or action regarding FOIA.

The requests to the state’s chief legal officer come as public bodies large and small strive to maintain essential services and protect the health and wellbeing of employees and residents during Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Stay at Home Order. Operating with reduced or no staff, cities, villages and towns are finding it difficult and sometimes impossible to respond to Freedom of Information Act Requests within the statutorily required time frame.
DuPage County Government Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DuPage County Government Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Municipalities have asked the Attorney General’s office, which oversees the enforcement of the state’s public access laws, to issue an advisory opinion recognizing the COVID-19 pandemic presents exceptional circumstances that should earn public bodies additional time to comply with requests without the burden of financial penalties that would ultimately be shouldered by taxpayers.
“We believe in transparency and the public’s right to access information about their government. We are not asking to halt public access to municipal information, but we are seeking a common-sense solution that would simply provide cities, villages and towns more time to respond to these requests during this historic challenge,” said Brad Cole, IML Executive Director. “Communities across Illinois are already being forced to make excruciating decisions as they work to maintain vital services with fewer resources. They should not have to worry about facing costly legal challenges related to information requests as well.”
In some municipalities, there simply is no staff available to process these requests as employees work remotely and do not have access to public records from home. Meanwhile, in larger cities, workers are focused on implementing measures in order to best respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and are being pulled away from their vital duties in order to respond to requests. Municipal leaders are not asking the Attorney General’s office to unilaterally void public access laws, but to use the authority of his office to extend response deadlines until the Stay at Home order is lifted and staffing levels are restored.
ABOUT THE ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL LEAGUE
The Illinois Municipal League is the statewide organization representing local communities throughout Illinois. Founded in 1913, IML has worked continuously for the benefit of all 1,298 municipalities in Illinois to provide a formal voice on matters involving common interests.

=======================================

SUBSCRIBE TO RAY HANANIA'S COLUMN

Enter your email address and

receive ALL of Ray Hanania's columns

Delivered by FeedBurner

=======================================

Website Editor

SHARE THIS STORY
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    1
    Share
  •  
    1
    Share
  •   
  •   
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •