In recognition of Sunshine Week, Attorney General Lisa Madigan released the Public Access Bureau’s annual report Wednesday detailing more than 4,700 new matters received in 2015.
The bureau works to foster transparency and openness in Illinois government by resolving disputes regarding compliance with the state’s Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act.
“My Public Access Bureau continues to receive an increasing number of requests for assistance to obtain public records,” Madigan said. “We have made progress in fostering greater transparency in Illinois, but it is clear we still have work to do to ensure access to government at all levels.”
The bureau received 4,770 formal requests for assistance pursuant to FOIA and OMA in 2015. The vast majority of the requests came from members of the public. Requests came from every area of the state and involved all types of public bodies — from small villages to large cities and state agencies.
In response to the requests for assistance, the bureau resolved 3,385 of the new matters that were received in 2015. Since 2010, the bureau has closed approximately 85 percent of the matters received. The bureau also conducted 36 training sessions in 2015 for members of the public, government officials, members of the media and students.
The bureau issued 15 binding opinions to enforce the state’s open records and open meetings laws.
2015 Public Access Bureau activities
The bureau received 4,770 new matters in 2015, the majority of which were submitted by members of the public rather than media representatives. The bureau’s role is to analyze and work to resolve disputes regarding the release of public records and the public’s access to government meetings. Members of the public and media submit “requests for review” to the bureau when they believe records have been denied improperly or a public meeting was not held in accordance to OMA.
Of the 4,770 total new matters received by the Public Access Bureau:
4,381 requests for review came from those who were denied records under FOIA:
- 3,686 from members of the public,
- 648 from the media or other organizations, and
- 47 from public bodies.
389 requests for review raised issues under OMA:
- 326 from members of the public,
- 46 from the media or other organizations, and
- 17 from public bodies.