Village of Robbins Reported to Attorney General’s Office for FOIA Violation (Robbins, IL) — The Village of Robbins has been reported to the Public Access Counselor for violating the FOIA Act. The Southland Journal sent a series of FOIA requests to the Village of Robbins on September 16 and and 20 for a variety of records related to certain communications, meeting recordings, spending, employment, and grants/loans received. The village responded with an argument stating that the requests are “unduly burdensome,” and said that the number of requests made — a total of 7 — met the requirements of a “repeated requester.” They requested that the scope be narrowed, however, pursuant to Section 140/2(g) of the 5 ILCS 140 (Freedom of Information Act), FOIA requests made from news media cannot be considered to be unduly burdensome: “For purposes of this definition, requests made by news media and non-profit, scientific, or academic organizations shall not be considered in calculating the number of requests made in the time periods in this definition when the principal purpose of the requests is (i) to access and disseminate information concerning news and current or passing events, (ii) for articles of opinion or features of interest to the public, or (iii) for the purpose of academic, scientific, or public research or education.”
The law clearly does not allow for the village to deny the request, since The Southland Journal is news media, and thus, the village should have responded. As of the end of business on Friday, September 30, 2022, there has been no response or further communication from the Village of Robbins.
The Southland Journal sent the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor a Request for Review, providing them with documentation detailing the FOIA requests, the response from the village, and The Southland Journal’s rebuttal that as news media, the request cannot be determined to be “unduly burdensome.” According to their website, “The Public Access Counselor (PAC) is a part of the Office of the Attorney General. Working under the direction and supervision of the Attorney General and with a team of attorneys and professional staff, the Public Access Counselor’s mission is to help people obtain public documents and access public meetings.”
It should also be mentioned that the Village of Robbins has been found to be in violation of the FOIA Act and Open Meetings Act in the past, and it appears that the village has not rectified their unwillingness to be more transparent.
According to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140/1), “Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of government, it is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act. Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest.”
The Southland Journal is looking forward to working with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Public Access Counselor to receive the requested information from the Village of Robbins. Readers will be updated with information as it becomes available.
Village of Robbins Reported to Attorney General’s Office for FOIA Violation