Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, records in possession of public agencies may be accessed by the public upon written request. Pursuant to [5 ILCS 140, Section 2(c)], a public record is any records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memorandum, books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communication, 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, received, in possession of or under the control of any public body.
Some records are, however, not available for disclosure via the FOIA process. These types of records are described under Section 7 of FOIA, specifically [5 ILCS 140, Section 7(1)(a) through (y) and Section 7.5 (Statutory Exemptions)]. Some FOIA disclosures may also be restricted by confidentiality provisions imposed by other state and federal statutes. The FOIA process does not supersede applicable statutory or judicial mandates concerning confidentiality, proprietary business and trade matters, or clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy matters.
FOIA Frequently Asked Questions
How do I submit a FOIA request?
Your request must be in writing and clearly describe the information being sought. Use of the FOIA request form is not required, but is recommended to assure accurate contact information (i.e. name, address, telephone, email, etc.), for certification purposes if needed, and to help direct your request promptly. You can fax your request to (815) 273-4050 or transmit your request by electronic mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests by US Mail, or special carrier, should be addressed to:
Carroll County Housing Authority
525 Third Street
Savanna, Illinois 61074
What happens after I submit my FOIA request?
All requests are processed as received. Pursuant to the 2010 Freedom of Information Act, as amended [5 ILCS 140/3], the Department will respond within 5 business days after receipt of request or within 21 business days for “commercial” requests, as defined by the FOIA. If the requested information is not readily available, a deferral will be issued. If the FOIA response contains more than 4 inches of paper documents or multi-media format items, the requestor may be notified and advised of options for viewing or copying the files.
Those options include:
- scheduling an on-site review of the records at our central office;
- notification of the copy fees that will be incurred by the requestor.
Once payment is received, the requested information will be sent out.
What is the response time for a FOIA request?
The response time for a FOIA request is 5 to 21 business days. Most FOIA responses are provided within 5 business days after receipt of the request. The response time can be extended automatically for 5 additional business days, and/or by mutual agreement.
For “commercial” request, the response time for a FOIA request is 21 business days after receipt of the request. FOIA [5 ILCS 140/1 et seq] defines a request “commercial purposes” as “in those instances where “use of any part of the public record or records, or information derived from public records, in any form for sale, resale, or solicitation or advertisement for sale or services.” Request by news media, non-profit, scientific, or academic organizations are generally not considered to be for “commercial purposes”.
Is there a charge for records and do I send payment with my request?
The basic charge for copying black & white paper documents is $0.15 per page if more than 50 pages. The first 50 pages are provided at no cost. Color copy or oversize copy (i.e. larger than standard 8×11 or 8×14 paper) may involve a greater fee equivalent to the actual commercial cost for reproduction. The basic fee for records on compact disc is $5.00 per disc.
For commercial requests, there is a charge of $10.00 per hour if more than 8 hours are expended by CCHA staff for searching/retrieving records. CCHA will charge actual costs for retrieval/transporting public records from any off-site storage facility. For records search that require a search design to access CCHA database records, you should discuss the scope of the search with CCHA to assess the cost-effectiveness of a search design and/or a manual records search.
Do not send any pre-payment checks with your FOIA request. If a fee is charged, CCHA will notify the requestor of the charge. Once payment is received, the requested information will be sent out. Payment by credit card or debit card is not allowed. Payment is required by check or money order payable to CCHA. No documents will be sent until receipt of payment.
Can I obtain a waiver or reduction of the FOIA fees, if I need the documents to represent myself pro se in a legal proceeding or as a citizen interest group appeal?
The guidelines for waiver or reduction of fees regarding pro se legal proceedings, for indigent person(s), or for civil legal service provider(s) are governed by the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure [735 ILCS 5 et seq.]. CCHA may waive or reduce fees, if the specific purpose of the FOIA request and the fee waiver or reduction is in the public interest, and are not for the principal purpose of “personal or commercial benefit”. The criteria for fee reduction or waiver are further discussed under the amended FOIA [5 ILCS 140/6(c)]. Such requests for fee waiver or reduction should be detailed in the FOIA request when submitted.
What do I do if I disagree with the denial of my FOIA request?
Pursuant to Section 9.5 of the amended FOIA [5 ILCS 140/3.5] you can file a Request for Review in writing to the Public Access Coordinator in the Illinois Attorney General. You must file no later than 60 days after the denial. The Request for Review must be signed and include a summary of the facts supporting your allegation of error. These review procedures are further described in Section 9.5(b) through [g], and also in Section 11.5 of the amended FOIA [5 ILCS 140/9.5 and 11.5 et seq]. Any person denied access to inspect or copy any CCHA record may also file for injunctive or declaratory relief before the circuit court for Carroll County, Illinois or before the circuit court for the residence of the requestor, as provided in Section 11 of the amended FOIA [5 ILCS 140/11].
Can I request that my name and address be withheld from FOIA disclosures?
Personal identity information, such as addresses, date of birth, social security number, driver license, etc. are redacted and withheld from disclosure pursuant to the FOIA provisions concerning non-disclosure of “personal information” and “private information”, as defined [5 ILCS 140/1 et seq.].
Can I receive the requested information by electronic data transfer or by express overnight mailing?
Requested records can be provided by express overnight mailing, if so requested and if a prepaid mailing envelope or express delivery account number is provided with the FOIA request. In certain instances, CCHA can arrange for electronic data transfer.
How do I request that my FOIA documents be certified for use in court proceedings?
If you wish for your FOIA documents to be certified, include your request for certification, or send an Affidavit with your request for signature. CCHA cannot certify your FOIA documents after the materials have been sent to you.