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(1) The State Freedom of Information Act (ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140 et seq.), as supplemented and amended since its effective date of 7-1-1984, requires all public bodies in the state to make non-exempt public records available for inspection and copying. The city not only strives to comply with the law, but also fully endorses the fundamental concept that all persons are entitled to full, accurate and complete information regarding the affairs of the city and the official acts and policies adopted by city officials and public employees. The city recognizes that its desire for the active and informed participation of its citizens in the public policy process necessitates as full and as free an access to this information as possible. In determining the parameters of public access to information, the city also understands its obligations to protect legitimate privacy interests and maintain the efficiency of its administrative operations.
(2) Pursuant to ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 3, the City Council shall have the authority to promulgate rules and regulations pertaining to the availability of records and procedures to be followed in conformity with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The rules and regulations contained herein have thus been established by the city to ensure that its obligations under the law and its philosophical obligation to its citizens to promote openness and transparency are satisfactorily met. These rules are intended to serve as procedural guidelines for citizens and employees and officers of the city in expediting the process of obtaining access to public records. In any instance in which these procedures shall conflict with language contained in the State Freedom of Information Act as now existing or hereafter amended, the terms of the Act shall prevail.
(B) Procedures for the request of inspection of copying of records.
(1) Requests for the inspection and copying of non-exempt public records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) may be made in person at the City Hall, 255 South Lincoln, O’Fallon, Illinois, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., except on holidays.
(2) The city shall also accept FOIA requests received via facsimile and through the United States mail. The city is only responsible for responding to requests that it actually receives and is not responsible for transmission or delivered errors for FOIA requests that are submitted through these alternative means. Any requests received by the city after normal business hours shall be considered received on the following business day.
(3) All requests for public records must be made in writing, preferably upon a city Freedom of Information request form. If a requesting party is unable to obtain one of these forms, the city will accept any legible written request; provided that, such written request is clearly and concisely stated and contains the name, address and telephone number of the requestor.
(4) To ensure that each FOIA request is acted upon in a complete and timely fashion, the requestor should ensure that the public record being sought is clearly identified in his or her request. Requestors should provide as much known information about the requested record as possible (e.g., type of record, approximate date of record, department where record may be located and the like.) The request should indicate whether the records are to be inspected, copied and/or certified. The city is not obligated to respond to requests that are overly broad or that would place an undue burden upon its operations; nor is the city obligated to interpret or advise requestors as to the meaning or significance of public records that may be provided.
(5) If the request is being made for a commercial purpose, the requestor must disclose that fact to the city at the time the request is made. It is a violation of the Act to knowingly obtain a public record for a commercial purpose without such disclosure.
(C) Fee schedule.
(1) Pursuant to ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 6, the city is given the authority to charge reasonable fees for the duplication and/or certification of public records produced in compliance with FOIA requests. The Freedom of Information Officer is given the authority to grant a waiver or reduction of fees for copying records if the requestor’s stated purpose is to obtain information regarding the health, safety and welfare of the general public and is not for the principal purpose of personal or commercial benefit. In determining the amount of any such waiver or fee reduction, the city will also consider the number of records requested and the actual costs of copying.
(2) Unless otherwise waived, copying fees that must be paid in advance of the records being made available to the requestor, are as follows:
8.5" x 11" documents
8.5" x 14" documents
11" x 14" documents
(3) For each request form filed, citizens shall be furnished with the first 50 pages of standard, black and white copies at no charge. Fees will not be waived for the first 50 pages of colored copies or copies exceeding 11 inches by 14 inches in area, unless a waiver or fee reduction is granted by the Freedom of Information Officer as a means of furthering the public interest.
(4) Fees to copy blueprints, oversized documents, pamphlets, manuals and any other records which are to be copied by an outside service shall be based on the actual costs incurred by the city.
(5) Information regarding these fees will be provided to the requestor before copying. Additional fees for accident records may apply, as allowable by law.
(D) City response to request for inspection or copying records. In accordance with the law, the city will respond to all non-commercial requests within five working days of receipt. Responses will be provided to any commercial requests within 21 working days of receipt. In processing requests for information made under the Act, the city shall give priority first to any non-commercial requests pending before it. The city must respond in one of the following methods.
(1) Approval of request.
(a) If the requested records are available and determined to be non-exempt, the city will advise the requestor of the documents which are available and the cost to copy the records. For commercial requests, the city response will include an estimate of the time required to locate and compile the records requested, as well as the estimated fees to be assessed to the requestor.
(b) If the requestor has asked to inspect the documents, the city will provide the requestor with notice of a time and location in which the records will be conducted during normal business hours at the City Hall, unless another location is otherwise agreed upon by the city and the requesting party. The city may require that an officer or employee of the city be present during any inspection of public records. A requestor may also be prohibited from bringing bags, briefcases or other containers into the room in which the inspection takes place. Documents made available for inspection will be held for 14 working days from the date of the city’s response and, thereafter, will be re-filed.
(c) Fees for copies of records, unless waived, must be paid in advance. All copying of documents shall be done by an officer or employee of the city. Upon written request, the city will mail copies of public records to the requestor.
(2) Notice of extension. Under certain circumstances, the FOIA allows the city to provide notice of an extension of time for response to a request. This time period shall not exceed an additional five working days, or a total of ten working days from the receipt of the original request. Any notice of extension must cite the reason why the extension is necessary.
(3) Denial of request.
(a) Any denial of any part of a request shall be made in writing and shall state the reason(s) for the denial in accordance with ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 3(g), or if the record is determined to be exempt, pursuant to ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 7 of the FOIA.
(b) ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140,§ 3(g) allows the city to deny a request for a category of records if compliance with the request would place an undue burden upon the city and there is no way to narrow the scope of the request, and/or the burden on the city outweighs the public interest in the information. Before denying a request on the basis of the exemption, the city will contact the requestor to offer him or her an opportunity to confer with the city in an attempt to reduce the scope of the request to a manageable proportion. Any denial pursuant to ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 3(g) shall specify the reason(s) why it would be unduly burdensome to the city and the extent to which compliance with the request would burden the operation of the city. Repeated requests for the same public records by the same person shall be deemed unduly burdensome and shall be denied accordingly.
(c) ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 7 enumerates a series of records that are considered exempt from public disclosure and, therefore, need not be produced by the city.
(d) All denials shall include the name and title of the individual or individuals responsible for the denial of the request, and shall include a detailed factual basis for the application of any exemption claimed. Any denial must also include a notice of the requestor’s statutory right to petition the office of the Public Access Counselor in the office of the State Attorney General for review of the denial, as well as the right to judicial review under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 11. In accordance with the provisions of the Act, copies of all denials shall be retained by the Freedom of Information Officer and will be indexed according to the type of exemption asserted and, to the extent feasible, according to the type of records requested.
(e) If the city determines that a FOIA request should be denied by claiming an exemption under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 7(l)(c) or (l)(f), the Freedom of Information Officer shall provide written notice to both the requestor and the Public Access Counselor of the city’s intent to deny the request in whole or in part. This notice shall include: a copy of the original FOIA request; the proposed response from the city; and a detailed summary of the city’s basis for asserting the exemption. Upon receipt of the notice of intent to deny, the Public Access Counselor shall determine whether or not further inquiry is warranted. Within five working days after receipt of the notice of intent to deny, the Public Access Counselor shall notify the city and the requestor whether further inquiry is warranted.
(E) Administrative and judicial review procedures.
(1) Any requestor whose request for information has been denied by the city may exercise his or her statutory right to petition the Public Access Counselor in the office of the State Attorney General for review of said denial. A request for review must be filed with the Public Access Counselor not later than 60 days after the date of the final denial. Any such request for review must be in writing, signed by the requestor, and include copies of the original FOIA request and any responses received from the city.
(2) Upon receipt of a request for review, the Public Access Counselor shall determine whether further action is warranted. If the Public Access Counselor determines that the alleged violation of the Act is unfounded, he or she shall so advise the requestor and the city and no further action will be taken with respect to the complaint. In all other cases, the Public Access Counselor shall forward a copy of the request for review to the city within seven working days after receipt and shall specify the records or other documents that the city shall furnish to facilitate the review. Within seven working days after receipt of the request for review, the Freedom of Information Officer must provide copies of the records requested and shall otherwise fully cooperate with the Public Access Counselor. To the extent that records produced by the city for the purposes of review contain information that is claimed to be exempt, the Public Access Counselor shall not further disclose that information.
(3) Within seven working days after he or she receives the request for review and request for production of records from the Public Access Counselor, the city may provide an answer to the allegations of the request for review in the form of a letter, brief or memorandum. The Public Access Counselor shall forward a copy of any such written answer to the person submitting the request for review and the requestor may respond in writing to such answer within seven working days. If the requestor chooses to file a written response to the city’s answering of the allegations, he or she must also provide a copy of that response to the city.
(4) The Attorney General shall examine the issues and records submitted in conjunction with any request for review and shall, within 60 days, issue to the requestor and to the city an opinion in response to the request for review. The opinion shall be binding upon both the requestor and the city, subject to administrative review under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 11.5. The Public Access Counselor may opt to extend the 60-day time period by up to 21 additional working days, provided that he or she sends written notice of such extension to both the requestor and the city. The Attorney General may exercise his or her discretion and choose to resolve a request for review by mediation or by a means other than the issuance of a binding opinion.
(5) Upon receipt of a binding opinion concluding that a violation of the Act has occurred, the Freedom of Information Officer shall either take necessary action immediately to comply with the directive of the opinion, or shall initiate administrative review under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 11.5. If the opinion concludes that no violation occurred, the requestor may initiate administrative review under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 11.5.
(6) Any person denied access to inspect or copy any public record shall also have the right to file suit for injunctive or declaratory relief in the Circuit Court of the county.
(F) City FOIA administrative procedures.
(1) In accordance with ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 3.5, the City Council shall designate an employee or officer of the city to serve as Freedom of Information Officer. The designated Freedom of Information Officer may, from time to time, designate additional employees or officers to serve as deputy Freedom of Information Officers for particular departments or divisions of the city as necessary to expedite the FOIA process. Freedom of Information Officers and Deputies shall be charged with the responsibility for implementing these policies and procedures and processing all requests for information in accordance with the terms of the Act. Deputy Freedom of Information Officers shall, at the discretion of the Freedom of Information Officer, be given the authority to act as the primary Freedom of Information Officer for each department or division in which they have been assigned. Each individual designated as a Freedom of Information Officer or Deputy shall successfully complete an annual training curriculum through the state, as provided in the Act.
(2) All FOIA requests shall be date stamped upon receipt, the Freedom of Information Officer shall forward a copy of the request to the appropriate contact employee for the department in which the records are located. Upon forwarding the request to the appropriate department, the Freedom of Information Officer shall also indicate the date by which the request must be approved or denied (five working days from the date of receipt).
(3) The employee responsible for providing the information on behalf of his or her department shall promptly either comply with or deny the request. The employee shall notify the Freedom of Information Officer of his or her action on the request no later than five working days after its receipt. The Freedom of Information Officer shall then respond in writing to the requestor accordingly. If denying the request, the official responsible for the denial must include, in writing, the following information:
(a) The statutory exemption used as the basis for the denial and the specific reasons for the denial, including a detailed factual basis and citation to supporting legal authority;
(b) The names/titles of each person responsible for the denial;
(c) The notice of the requestor’s statutory right to petition the Public Access Counselor for review of the denial; and
(d) The notice of the requestor’s statutory right to judicial review under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 11.
(4) If any public record exempt from disclosure contains material which is not exempt, the city shall delete the exempt information and make the remaining information available for inspection and copying.
(5) If the responsible employee determines that there is not adequate time to gather the requested information, the time limit may be extended by an additional five working days. Extensions should be reserved only for extenuating circumstances. Appropriate reasons for extension include:
(a) The requested record is in a place other than the office at which the record is being requested;
(b) The request requires the collection of a substantial number of specified records;
(c) The request is understood in categorical terms and requires an extensive search for the records responsive to it;
(d) The requested records have not been located in the course of routine search and additional efforts are being made to locate them;
(e) The requested records require examination and evaluation by personnel having the necessary competence and discretion to determine if the records are exempt from disclosure under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 7, or should be revealed only with appropriate deletions;
(f) The request for records cannot be complied with by the public body within the time limits prescribed by ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 3 without unduly burdening or interfering with the operations of the public body; and
(g) There is a need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed with another public body or among two or more components of a public body having a substantial interest in the determination or in the subject matter of the request.
(6) When additional time is required for any of the aforementioned reasons, the responsible employee shall notify the Freedom of Information Officer as soon as possible, but no later than four working days after receipt of the request. The Freedom of Information Officer shall then immediately send written notice of extension to the requestor, stating the reasons for the extension and the date by which the records will be available or that a denial will be forthcoming. Extensions will not be granted for a period exceeding five working days, except in the most unusual circumstances; provided that, any such extraordinary period for extension will first be agreed upon in writing by both the requestor and the Freedom of Information Officer.
(7) All requests for public records made under the FOIA shall be maintained in a file in an office designated by the Freedom of Information Officer and preserved in accordance with the provisions of the Local Records Act. Documents maintained in this file shall include, but not be limited to, the following: the original request, a copy of the written response, a record of written communications with the requestor and a copy of all other communications. Additionally, all denials of FOIA requests shall, by law, be indexed according to the statutory basis for the individual denial. To the extent practicable, these records should be further subdivided by type or category of record requested.
(8) In accordance with the provisions of ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 4, the Freedom of Information Officer shall be responsible for publishing and maintaining a local FOIA manual, pamphlet or other substantially similar document containing the following information:
(a) A brief description of the city, including, but not limited to:
1. A short summary of its purpose;
2. A block diagram of its functional subdivisions;
3. The total amount of its operating budget;
4. The number and location of each of its separate offices;
5. The approximate number of full- and part-time employees; and
6. The identification and membership of any Council, commission, committee or council which operates in an advisory capacity relative to the operation of the public body, or which exercises control over its policies or procedures.
(b) A brief description of the methods whereby the public may request information and public records;
(c) A directory designating by titles and addresses those employees to whom requests for public records should be directed;
(d) A schedule of local fees, as allowable under ILCS Ch. 5, Act 140, § 6;
(e) A reasonably current list of all types or categories of records maintained by the city;
(f) A listing of all documents or categories of records that the city shall immediately disclose upon request; and
(g) A description of the manner in which public records stored by means of electronic data processing may be obtained in a format comprehensible to persons lacking knowledge of computer language or printout format.
(9) All of the foregoing general information shall also be made available for public access on the city’s website.
(1999 Code, § 31.153) (Ord. 3656, passed 2-16-2010; Ord. 3784, passed 12-3-2012)