By Lisa Rodgers
Reporter
SPRINGFIELD- “For democracy to work, citizens need access to the information about what government does,” Mindy Ruckman, of Illinois Policy Institute wrote in an article entitled: “Local Transparency Project.” “Proactive transparency is the best way to educate society about the actions of government.”
“Proactive government transparency is one of the most important tools we have to help prevent, expose and put an end to government corruption,” wrote Director of Government Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute Brian Costin in 2012. “In light of the high levels of corruption in northern Illinois, it is surprising that many county governments are not doing more to provide basic financial and participatory information to their citizens online.”
In 2009, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan together with Illinois Legislators and advocates of open government drafted and passed Senate Bill 189, Public Act 096-0542 on Jan. 1, 2010. The purpose of this updated legislation was to increase transparency and accountability for every level of government in the State of Illinois.
Up until 2010, the public did not have the resources, provisions of the law or tools that would assure the public timely access to public records, meetings or allow the review of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) concerning a public body. These updated provisions are intended to strengthen the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act in Illinois.
“It is the public policy of this State that public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their business,”
the Illinois Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS 120/1 states.
Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of government, it is declared to be the 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 the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, 5 ILCS 140/1.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan believes that an open, honest and accountable government, the cornerstone of a democracy, can be achieved only through the free and open exchange of information between government and the public.
In Illinois, our most important transparency laws – the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA) – endeavor to open the workings of government to the public, shed light on government actions and, in the process, strengthen our democracy,” according to the http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/Default.aspx.
What is the Public Access Counselor Office of the Attorney General in Illinois?
The Public Access Counselor consists of lawyers and staff while working under the direction and supervision of the Attorney General.
Under the current law, they are provided the authority to resolve disputes pertaining to the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Their mission is to help people obtain public documents and access public meetings as well as enforcing transparency laws that will provide open, accessible and accountable government to everyone in the State of Illinois.
In addition, the Public Access Counselor is responsible for providing Educational Materials, Advisory Opinions, Mediate Disputes, OMA or FOIA Request for Review, the issuing of Binding Opinions and Electronic Training for government and public use.
The Public Access Counselor 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 the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.
There is also no charge for their online public or government training of the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.
In fact, citizens are encouraged to take the online training to become more educated about public bodies and the requirements the law sets forth that they must follow in order to maintain transparency.
The Public Access Counselor Office is more than willing to answer questions and provide accurate information to the people of Illinois.
For more information please visit http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/Default.aspx.
Or, contact by mail at:
Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62706
Anyone can also contact Public Access by email: publicaccess@atg.state.il.us; phone: (877) 299-FOIA (3642); or fax: (217) 782-1396.

 
 
 
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