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Changes to FOIA and OMA

December 18th, 2009

As you know, changes have been made to the State’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts (FOIA and OMA). These changes go into effect 1 January 2010 with a compliance date of 1 July 2010. Please note additional information on these changes can be found on the LCLS Web site for FOIA, the Attorney General’s FOIA Web site, WebJunction Illinois, among other locations.

Open Meetings Act: Each Public Body must designate a person or persons to receive training on the Open Meetings Act, this is new. Those persons must successfully complete training by July 1, 2010 and their names must be submitted to the Public Access Counselor. Those designated people must annually complete the training program and any new person designated to take training must do so within 30 days after designation.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Each public body must designate a Freedom of Information Officer(s), this is not new. However, what is new is, these officers must successfully complete training developed by the Public Access Counselor by July 1, 2010 and successfully repeat training annually. Any new designated Freedom of Information Officer must complete the training in 30 days.

Other changes:

  • The number of days you have to respond to a FOIA request has been reduced from seven (7) to five (5).
  • The fine for non-compliance has increased.
  • The meaning of a public record has changed. Performance Reviews and other documents in the personnel files can be requested. Private/personal information must be redacted from those documents before they are given to a FOIA requester.
  • There is now an Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor (PAC) office to review denied request and complaints from requestors.
  • There are two instances where the library is required to send information directly to the PAC. The first is when you deny disclosure because it would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The second is when the exemption is for “preliminary drafts, notes, recommendations, memoranda and other records in which opinions are expresses, or policies or actions are formulated.” When this happens you must notify the Requester and the PAC of you intent to deny the request.

Under the changes a library must describe their public body and list the types of documents they hold that can be requested. Examples include: organizational chart, library’s purpose, board minutes, etc. To fulfill this requirement, it is suggested the library modify the Freedom of Information model policy found in the Administrative Ready Reference. The Board adopts this policy and posts it; physically and on the Web site. The documents and record information must be posted at the library and also on the library’s Web site. Please note that it does not matter if you do not operate the site or have only part time staff. If there is a library Web site it MUST be posted.

What you need to do?

  1. Read the FOIA information posted on the System’s Web site, and the attached summary from Attorney General’s FOIA/OMA seminars. Thank you to Kathleen Feher for sharing her summary.
  2. Download the new FOIA model policy, modify it for your library and adopt it at your January Board Meeting.
  3. At the January Board meeting appoint your Freedom of Information Officer(s). You need one but having a person as back up is encouraged so that if one is unavailable when a request is made, the library has time to respond. Also designate your Open Meeting Act officer(s). They can be the same person.
  4. Designated FOIA and OMA officers take and successfully complete the appropriate training. The training should be available on or around 1 January 2010. Notify the PAC once the training is completed.
  5. FOIA officer sets up files and internal procedures for handling FOIA request.

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