By Lisa Rodgers
Reporter
SPRINGFIELD – “Open and honest government is the cornerstone of American democracy. FOIA is intended to ensure that members of the public have access to information about their government and its decision-making process.
As a public official and a FOIA Officer, you have a duty to assist the public in obtaining that information,” according to page four of the 2016 FOIA training: (5 ILCS 140/) Freedom of Information Act is also referred to as FOIA.
The following contains only a portion of the information provided by the 2016 FOIA online training found at the Public Access Counselor (PAC) website http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/Training.aspx.
It is the intent of this article to provide few examples of the educational information available. The FOIA training covers many requirements. The PAC encourages the public to take the FREE online training provided to become educated in ensuring transparency in all public bodies in the State of Illinois.
“The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires every public body to designate one or more officials or employees to act as its Freedom of Information Officer(s).
FOIA requires every person who is designated as a FOIA Officer to successfully complete this electronic training curriculum within 30 days after assuming the position, and again each year that he or she continues to serve…,” page one of the 2016 FOIA training states.
“What is a Public Record?”
…‘Public records’ means 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) states.
The physical characteristics of records are not relevant in classifying them as ‘public records,’ because the definition expressly extends to all records regardless of their physical form or characteristics. Rather, the important factors in determining whether a record is a “public record” are:
(1) Whether the record pertains to the transaction of public business of the public body; and
(2) Whether the record was prepared by or for, or was or is being used by, was received by, or is in the possession of or under the control of the public body,” found on page eight of the 2016 FOIA training.
“The Illinois General Assembly has declared, in the first paragraph of FOIA that it is:
[T]he public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act.
Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest,” according to 5 ILCS 140/1.
“FOIA balances the public’s right to know with individual privacy rights and legitimate governmental interests, and establishes procedures to facilitate the inspection and copying of records.
FOIA defines those documents and communications that are ‘public records’ that generally must be disclosed, but also permits certain records to be withheld from inspection and copying.
FOIA sets out the procedures that public bodies must follow in making records available and the procedures any person may use to gain access to public records for inspection and copying.
Finally, FOIA provides for both administrative and judicial review of any decision to withhold records from inspection and copying,” page four of the 2016 FOIA training states.
The Public Access Counselor (PAC) is a FREE service. Anyone may call (877) 299-3642 during normal business hours and ask questions directly to a Public Access Counselor in regards to OMA and FOIA. The online public or government training of OMA and FOIA is also FREE. The PAC website also offers binding PAC opinions of Request for Reviews of OMA and FOIA. The Public Access Counselor Office is willing to answer questions and provide accurate information to the people of Illinois.
For more information visit Public Access Counselor http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/Default.aspx.
The public can reach Public Access at:
Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62706.
Public Access can also be reached by email: publicaccess@atg.state.il.us; phone: (877) 299-FOIA (3642); or fax: (217) 782-1396.

 
 
 
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