What is the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a state statute that provides the public the right to access government documents and records. The premise behind FOIA is that the public has a right to know what the government is doing. The law provides that a person can ask a public body for a copy of its records on a specific subject and the public body must provide those records, unless there is an exemption in the statute that protects those records from disclosure (for example: records containing information concerning trade secrets or personal privacy).
How do I make a FOIA request?
Parkland College only accepts written FOIA requests. A written FOIA request to Parkland College should include:
- The requestor’s name;
- Complete contact information: name, address, and a daytime phone number so that we can contact you if we have any questions; and
- Description of the information you are seeking with sufficient detail so that we can find the requested records (Providing as much information as possible in your request on the subject matter may expedite the search process).
You may submit a written FOIA request by any of the following methods:
- Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax to: 217/351-2592
- Mail or deliver in person to:
2400 W. Bradley Ave.
Champaign, IL 61821-1899
How many days does the College have to respond to my FOIA request?
Parkland College will respond to a FOIA request within 5 business days after we receive the request. Day 1 of the 5-day timeline is the first business day after the request is received. The date that the request was received does not count as “Day 1.” That time period may be extended for an additional 5 business days from the date of the original due date if:
- the requested information is stored at a different location;
- the request requires the collection of a substantial number of documents;
- the request requires an extensive search;
- the requested records have not been located and require additional effort to find;
- the requested records need to be reviewed by staff who can determine whether they are exempt from FOIA;
- the requested records cannot be produced without unduly burdening the public body or interfering with its operations; or
- the request requires the public body to consult with another public body who has substantial interest in the subject matter of the request.
If additional time is needed, Parkland College will notify the requester in writing within 5 business days after the receipt of the request of the statutory reasons for the extension and when the requested information will be produced.
What is a “business day” or “working day”?
A “business day” or “working day” is a regular day of the week (Monday through Friday) when public offices and most businesses are open. Saturdays, Sundays and state holidays are not business days and cannot be counted in the 5 business day time period.
Does Parkland College charge for copies?
For black and white, letter or legal sized copies (8 ½ x 11 or 11 x 14), the first 50 pages are free, and any additional pages can cost no more than 15 cents a page. For color copies or abnormal size copies, the College can charge the actual cost of copying.
The College will charge the actual cost of the recording medium. For example, if information is produced on CDs, Parkland College may charge the actual cost of purchasing the CDs.
Is it possible for Parkland College to waive the copying fees?
Yes. The College may waive or reduce copying fees if disclosure is in the public interest. A waiver or reduction may be available if:
- the request is for information on the health, safety and welfare or the legal rights of the general public;
- there is an intent to disseminate the information; or
- no personal or commercial benefit will be received from document disclosure.
EXEMPTIONS – RECORDS THAT ARE NOT PUBLIC
What is considered a “public record”?
“Public records” are defined in FOIA as “all records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary materials pertaining to the transaction of public business, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been prepared by or for, or having been or being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of any public body.” (5 ILCS 140/2(c)) Given this broad definition, FOIA is intended to cover any document, regardless of form, that pertains to government business.
What kind of information can I not get access to?
The FOIA law has a presumption that all information is public, unless the public body proves otherwise. There are several exceptions to public disclosure that include but are not limited to:
- Private information – “Private information” is exempt from disclosure under FOIA. FOIA defines “private information” as “unique identifiers, including a person’s social security number, driver’s license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, and personal e-mail addresses.” Under FOIA, “private information also includes home addresses and personal license plate numbers, except as otherwise provided by law or when compiled without possibility of attribution to any person.”
- Personal information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the person who is the subject of the information. Under FOIA, the “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” means the “disclosure of information that is highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person and in which the subject’s right to privacy outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information.” Disclosing information that relates to the public duties of public employees is not considered an invasion of personal privacy.
- Law enforcement records that, if disclosed, would interfere with a pending or reasonably contemplated proceeding or that would disclose the identity of a confidential source.
- Information that, if disclosed, might endanger anyone’s life or physical safety.
- Preliminary drafts or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated, unless the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.
- Business trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is proprietary, privileged or confidential and disclosure would cause competitive harm to the person or business.
- Proposals and bids for any contract, until a final selection is made.
- Requests that are “unduly burdensome.”
What is a request for information made for a commercial purpose?
A commercial request is when the requester seeks to use part or all of the public records for sale, resale, or solicitation or advertisement for sales or services. Requests by the news media, not-for-profit organizations, scientific or academic institutions are not considered commercial information requests.
Are commercial information requests treated differently?
Yes. A public body has 21 business days to respond to a request for information that is made for a commercial purpose. The public body can either: (1) provide the requested records; (2) advise when the records will be provided and the costs; (3) deny the request (if it falls under an exception); or (4) advise the requester that the request is unduly burdensome.