Illinois (ECWd) –
Governor Rauner took office on January 12, 2015. Ten days later, he instituted directives that some would consider police state tactics for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and the requestors. When these directives leaked to the public, his office tried to hide the policy from the public. An FOIA for the directives by Andrew Garrett, with Garrett Discovery, a forensic investigation company, was met with his office citing exemptions that the courts later confirmed are not legal exemptions. We understand they have not yet recieved the records ordered to be turned over.
Why did the Governor fight the release of these directives?
Politics over Governance
We obtained the very records in question in a recent FOIA.
It’s clear, certain records and requestors faced hidden directives that are most troubling in our Constitutional Republic.
- “…any notable FOIA requests, particularly those that might relate to journalistic investigations or result in public attention.”
It appears clear, matters that would result in public attention was a concern. I guess he and his lawyers failed to understand public records belong to the “public”. His directive was more about protecting his public image than it was about the governance of our state.
We searched and could not find “notable” as a definition of any particular FOIA request. Considering the lawyers failed to define what a “notable FOIA request” is, maybe that explains part of why this state is in the mess it’s in.
More concerning, why would “who” requested the information matter? A public record is a public record regardless of who requested it, however, in the case of Governor Rauner, journalistic investigation FOIA requests or those that may result in public attention are treated differently.
One disturbing criterion outlined in these directives was his office wanting; “background context about the requestor”.
For those that are not aware, it is totally inappropriate for a unit of government to seek background context about the people requesting public records. There is no such provision in the law that permits this type of activity and the lawyers that participated in this directive should have informed the Governor this is an overreach and has nothing to do with FOIA compliance.
The question that must be answered is what does a requestor’s background context have to do with determining if a record is, in fact, subject to release under our Illinois FOI Act? Was this background information the building of an enemies list? Was it to be used as leverage against a requestor?
The directives issued by the Governor, the first in January of 2015 and the second the following month, provides an example of how our Governor took immediate steps to put himself and his image ahead of actually governing the State of Illinois.
The first policy had a heading of RED FLAG ISSUES that required immediate communication with the Governor’s Office. One of those was “FOIA requests concerning any sensitive information”, however nowhere in the directive did it define what “sensitive information” is.
The undefined “Red Flag Issues” had additional directives.
“Please await final sign-off from the Governor’s Office FOIA Officer before sending out a response.”
So rather than state agencies appointing an FOIA officer and complying with FOIA as outlined by law, they were directed to funnel FOIA requests from Journalistic investigations and requests that might raise “heightened public interest” to his office for a final sign-off from the Governors Office.
I don’t know about all the other media outlets in this state and country, but for us, these directives are a direct attack on our rights as citizens to have unfettered access to our public records. Additionally, a Constitutional Republic thrives on heightened public interest which spurs debate and inclusion of We The People.
When Benjamin Franklin was asked that famous question, “what have we got, a republic or a monarchy”, he responded, “A republic if you can keep it.”
The only way we can keep it is to be involved and informed of all matters of public interest no matter who is asking for it and how sensitive our elected officials feel that information may be.
While our elected officials on both sides of the political isle play games and focus on their own interests and continue to divide this great nation, We The People demand Governance over politics.
The Governor and his legal team that helped create these directives pertaining to FOIA should be ashamed.
You can download the January 2015 directives at this link and the February 2015 directive at this link, or view both below.Agency Legal Reporting Guidelines - 1-22-2015
FOIA Reporting Guidelines
NiteCatPosted at 15:46h, 27 November
Along with all of his unfulfilled promises, he was no different than any other politician when it came to CYA. The bloom came off the rose pretty quickly for me after his election when he couldn’t quite decide if he was really a Republican or DemonRAT. You could tell he thought he could play with the Combine boys, but even they didn’t think he was RINO enough for them. Hope for IL dashed again…sigh.
Frank RizzoPosted at 19:07h, 27 November
Good work there. Seems like they tell you exactly what words you need to use on your next FOIA requests!
Remind me again why the voters reelected this guy.
A. LincolnPosted at 19:31h, 27 November
Once again, Illinois lawyers do not fail to disappoint.
Illinois Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct For Lawyers have NO meaning.
A. LincolnPosted at 19:39h, 27 November
Headline for your next article on this matter:
Governor Rauner’s Counsel Makes Case For Stronger FOIA Laws In Two Policy Documents
Robert O. BoguePosted at 20:26h, 29 November
It’s a sad, sad day for Illinois taxpayers that were expecting honesty and fairness. AND BY COINCIDENCE….
Yesterday on November 28, 2018 I received e-mail correspondence from the Public Access Counselor regarding two cases: 2015 PAC 36413 and 2015 PAC 36585.
As the labeling suggests, these were complaints that were filed in 2015 at a time when “our government” refused to provide minutes to meetings among other things. Notice that was three years ago.
The correspondence received indicates, a recent search for those documents was unsuccessful in locating anything more than a meeting agenda. Officials legally required to keep these records three years ago: are no longer there. Employees that worked in this office are no longer there. After all, it’s been three years!
To this I might add, justice delayed is justice denied. Our neighboring state to the east, also has a FOIA process and something equivalent to our Attorney General’s PAC Bureau. The big difference between Indiana and Illinois, seems to be that Indiana law requires their “PAC” office to resolve all complaints within 30 days.
This isn’t the my first FOIA request to Illinois government that has gone unanswered for great lengths of time. The facts in my case certainly add credence to the article above for the non-believers.
The obvious message here is, if you’re working in Illinois government and involved with all sorts of criminal acts, Illinois Law and elected officials favor your activity with silence and inaction. The second part is, stay in Illinois…things are different in Indiana…