* Better Government Association…
The BGA looked at how the [the attorney general’s Public Access Counselor’s office — or PAC] ruled on 28,270 [Freedom of Information Act] and [Open Meetings Act] requests for review from April 6, 2010 to March 15, 2018. […]
Out of the top 5 public bodies that initially failed to respond to [FOIA] requests — and only responded after the PAC intervened — the Chicago Police Department ranked the highest with 672 requests that it did not respond to during this period. Additionally, there were 6 instances in which the Chicago Police Department did not respond even after PAC intervention during the time period we studied. In fact, the PAC issued a binding opinion as recently as December 31, 2018, based on CPD’s failure to respond to a request even after the PAC intervened. Based on a FOIA request we submitted to CPD recently, it does not appear that anyone at CPD was ever disciplined for these violations.
In our list of the top 5 offenders, the Illinois Department of Corrections ranked second with 519 FOIA violations — that is, they did not respond to 519 FOIA requests. The Illinois State Police ranked third with 200 violations, followed by Chicago Public Schools with 199 violations, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office with 162 violations. Overall, there were over 4,600 of these instances for all public bodies across the state during the time period we examined. […]
The BGA examined the frequency with which public bodies claimed a FOIA exemption that was found to be improper from April 6, 2010, to March 15, 2018. The PAC Office determined that public bodies had asserted incorrect exemptions 1,345 times — approximately 30 percent of the times in which the PAC issued a substantive determination on an exemption claim. […]
According to the PAC data, out of the top 14 public bodies that incorrectly applied exemptions to deny FOIA requests, the City of East St. Louis was in violation 100 percent of the time, the University of Illinois 63 percent of the time, the City of Joliet following closely at 58 percent of the time, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services and the Illinois Department of Transportation both 46 percent of the time, and the Chicago Police Department 43 percent of the time. […]
The BGA also looked at the PAC dataset for entries on the Open Meetings Act and determined the frequency with which public bodies violated OMA or did not violate OMA, according to PAC. […]
Between April 2010 and March 2018, the PAC Office reviewed 717 OMA requests and found that public bodies violated the Open Meetings Act approximately 42 percent of the time. There were 301 instances in which the PAC determined that the public bodies’ denial of open meeting records violated OMA and 416 instances in which PAC decided the public bodies’ actions were not in violation of OMA.
* From the attorney general’s PAC office…
“Despite years of work to change the culture of secrecy in Illinois government, the BGA’s findings show that many government offices still routinely disregard their obligation to provide access to government records,” the statement read. “The role of the Public Access Counselor is to resolve open records disputes, and we devote thousands of hours to doing that every year. But, as these findings demonstrate, far too often, government offices are choosing to ignore the law and working to thwart the Public Access Counselor.”