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Illinois Public Access Counselor

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Illinois Public Access Counselor
Leadership: Amalia Rioja (acting)
Founded by: Illinois Freedom of Information Act
Website: http://foia.ilattorneygeneral.net/
Powers:
Review denials of public records requests for legal validity.

The Illinois Public Access Counselor was established by the Illinois Freedom of Information Act in 2009 in order to better assist the state in deciding disputes concerning the records requests. The mission of the Public Access Counselor (PAC) is: "to help people obtain public documents and access public meetings." The PAC is an attorney appointed by the attorney general, and is a permanent part of the attorney general's office. Amalia Rioja is the current acting counselor. She replaced Cara Smith, who resigned to take a position in the Department of Corrections.[1][2][3]

Duties

  • Oversee Public Access Bureau and its staff of 11 assistant attorneys and six support staff[1]
  • receive complaints from individuals who feel that have been wrongly denied records
  • review all denials of records requests and determine if they are within the law
  • issue orders or binding opinions in cases of reviewed denials[4]
  • issue advisory opinions on open records disputes
  • educate the public on transparency issues and provide training to FOIA officers[2][3][5][6]

History

The office of Public Access Counselor was created on December 20, 2004 by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The first PAC was Terry Mutchler. In 2009, new legislation was passed (Senate Bill 189, Public Act 096-0542) to strengthen the state's Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. Among other things, it made the Public Access Counselor a permanent part of the Attorney General's Office.[7][2]

January 2011

Cara Smith resigned to take a position with the Department of Corrections. Attorney General Lisa Madigan appointed Amalia Rioja to serve as acting public access counselor.[8] A job description was released, advertising the position's availability.[1]

Request Submissions

Requests submitted to the PAC must be sent within 60 calendar days of the denial of the initial FOIA request, and within 60 calendar days of the conduct that is alleged to have violated OMA terms. Concerns regarding improperly denied FOIA requests and OMA violations may be submitted with these requirements:[9]

OMA claims

  • written request, including a summary of the facts supporting the allegation
  • signed by the requester

FOIA claims

  • written request, including a summary of the facts supporting the allegation
  • a copy of the original FOIA request and any responses from the public body
  • signed by the requester

Once all claims have been properly assembled, they may be submitted via email or U.S. Mail.

For U.S. Mail requests, please address to:

Amalia Rioja
Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, Illinois 62706

For email requests, send to Amalia Rioja, Public Access Counselor, at: publicaccess@atg.state.il.us.

Request process

PAC request for review process under FOIA

The following is the process for review under FOIA:[10]

Action by Specifics Timeline
Requester Submits a FOIA request to the public body N/A
Public Body Can choose to respond, not respond, or provide information. Within 5 days
Requester If public body doesn't respond or denies request, requester may submit review request with PAC Within 60 calendar days
PAC Decides if request warrants a review. If so, PAC will ask Public body for any necessary records. Within 7 days
Public Body Provide requested records, or may provide answer. Within 7 days of PAC request.
PAC If public body provides answer, PAC forwards copy to requester. Within same 7 days as previous action
Requester Has the choice to respond to the answer provided by PAC Within 7 days
PAC If requester responds, PAC may issue binding action.[11] Within 60 calendar days[12]
  • Note: All timeline specifics are in business days, unless expressed otherwise in chart.

PAC request for review process under OMA

The following is the process for review of alleged violations under OMA:[10]

Action by Specifics Timeline
Requester Identifies violation of Open Meetings act and must submit review form. Within 60 calendar days.
PAC Determine if request warrants review. If yes, PAC will ask Public Body for any necessary records Within 7 days of request.
Public Body Provide requested records, or may provide answer. Within 7 days of PAC request.
PAC If public body provides answer, PAC forwards copy to requester. Within same 7 days as previous action
Requester Has the choice to respond to the answer provided by PAC Within 7 days
PAC If requester responds, PAC may issue binding action.[11] Within 60 calendar days[12]
  • Note: All timeline specifics are in business days, unless expressed otherwise in chart.

Forms and Sample Letters

Reports

Contact

Amalia Rioja
Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, Illinois 62706
Phone: 312-814-5526 or
1-877-299-FOIA (1-877-299-3642)
Fax: 217-782-1396
E-mail: publicaccess@atg.state.il.us

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Quad City Times "Public takes advantage of Illinois open government laws," January 29, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Illinois Freedom of Information Act
  3. 3.0 3.1 Illinois Public Access Counselor Website
  4. binding opinions
  5. [FOIA educational materials
  6. Electronic FOIA training
  7. 2005 PAC Annual Report Scroll to pages 1 and 2
  8. WIFR News "Attorney General Madigan announces new acting public access counselor," January 25, 2011
  9. Office of the Attorney General, How to Submit a Request for Review
  10. 10.0 10.1 Illinois Attorney General, "PAC Guide," accessed January 26, 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 PAC may choose to settle the matter informally between requester and public body. If the PAC rules in favor of the requester, Public Body must comply or appeal decision in court. If the ruling favors Public Body, requester can appeal decision in court as well.
  12. 12.0 12.1 PAC may request an extension of 21 business days by filing a written notice to both the requester and the public body, according to the PAC website