This information comes from the Illinois Municipal League for the revisions concerning the Sunshine Laws.
This document has been prepared by IML staff to assist you with understanding the changes made to the state's Sunshine Laws in 2009, which became effective on January 1, 2010.
The amendments to the Open Meetings Act (OMA) substantive language were fewer, with the exception of the Public Access Counselor role, which is expansive. The changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), however, are expansive as is the role of the Public Access Counselor (PAC). The new supervisory role and enforcement provisions granted to the Atoorney General's office through the appointment of a Public Access Counselor is truly something that each public body and local official must review and comprehend. IML is hopeful this document will assist everyone and as always, staff is available to help you. Your municipal attorney will be a valued advisor to help you in responding to these new changes.
We should note that the IML was heavily engaged in the process by which the Attorney General advanced these changes through the legislative process and many concerns that exist were pointed out by the IML as substantial problems and concerns. Those suggestions to make the Act more user friendly for citizens and officials were mostly ignored and this highly legalized version was approved. We are all confronted now with doing our best. The Attorney General's website will be an important area for updates and further information (www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/
). In addition, IML will continue to provide updated information at our websit, www.iml.org
- Complaint Procedures: If a person believes an OMA violation has occurred, then he or she may request a review by the Public Access Counselor. The request must be in writing, signed by the requester, and contain a summary of the facts supporting the allegation. This must be done within 60 days after the alleged violation.
- Appoint FOIA Officers: Each public body is required to designate one or more officials or employees to act as a "FOIA officer." The FOIA officer is basically the quarterback for the municipality's FOIA program. The duties of a FOIA officer are to receive requests that are submitted to the municipality, to ensure that the municipality responds in a timely manner, and to issue the necessary responses.
Request Intake Procedures
The fundamental purpose of FOIA is the disclosure of public records. FOIA requires that each public body must make all public records available for inspection and copying unless those records are exempt under the statute. The changes to FOIA have altered the procedures for handling records requests.
- Form of Request: Records requests must be made in writing and be directed to the public body. Unfortunately, the statute does not require that the request be directed to a FOIA officer - it only requires that it be directed to the public body. Consequently, you will want to ensure that you have a process in place by which a records request will find its way to the relevant FOIA officer.
The written request may be submitted to the public body in person, by mail, by telefax, or by any other delivery method that is available to the public body. The municipality may have a suggested form to use for records requests, but it may not require that a standard form be used.
While it is not a requirement, the statute allows the municipality to honor oral requests if it so desires. There are several reasons why this practice is ill-adivsed. First, it is difficult to reconcile an oral request with the filing requirements for requests and the FOIA officer's duties. Also, the lack of a written record could be an issue if there are legal challenges later on.
For more information on the revisions for the Sunshine Laws, you can go to www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/
or visit the Village of Colfax.