The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the principal Illinois statutory enactment governing the inspection of public records. This Act guarantees access to thousands of documents and records generated by the state and local governmental bodies. Specifically, it provides the public with a mechanism to observe government in action and to monitor the actions that government takes. In order to properly comply with this Act, the City of Lincoln has developed the following guidelines.
Who has the right to inspect public records?
Any individual, corporation, partnership, firm or organization, acting individually or as a group has the right to inspect public records.
What information must be made available?
Full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them. Basically, all records having been prepared, or having been used, received, possessed or under the control of the City must be made available unless the Act provides a specific exemption from disclosure. The City's obligation is to provide a requesting party with records in the form in which they are originally kept, regardless of physical form (hard copy, microfilm, tape recordings, cards, photographs, electronic data processing records, etc.). If the records are in an electronic format, upon request of the requestor the City will supply the records either, (1) in a different electronic format, if feasible, or (2) in paper format at the option of the requestor. The following is a non-exhaustive list of records considered "public", as of the date of this publication:
- Administrative manuals, procedural rules
- Final opinions and orders made in the adjudication of cases
- Substantive rules
- Statements and interpretations of policy adopted by any City entity
- Final planning policies
- Factual reports, inspection reports and studies prepared for or by the City
- Any account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or expenditure of public funds
- Names, salaries, titles and dates of employment of all employees and officers of the City
- Materials containing opinions concerning the rights of the State, City, or any private person
- Name of every official and the final records of voting in all proceedings of public bodies
- Applications for any contract, permit, grant or agreement
- Reports, documents, studies and publications prepared by independent consultants for the City
- All information required by law
- Any grant or contract made by or between the City and another public body or private organization
What information is exempted from public disclosure?
While the Freedom of Information Act provides for the disclosure of public information, it does recognize that in order to enable public bodies to perform certain governmental functions properly, and in order to protect personal privacy, some records and information should remain confidential. A complete listing of these exempted records and information is specified under Section 7 of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
The following is the City of Lincoln's procedure for obtaining information through the Freedom of Information Act. By following these steps, requests for information can be expedited in an effective and efficient manner.
Step 1: Complete & Submit a Freedom of Information Act Request Form
All requests for information must be made in written form. Forms are available online or at most city facilities.
Any type of request for information should be accompanied by the request form. Forms should be completed even when there are concerns that the information may be exempt under the Act. It is important to be as direct/specific as possible when making a request. A request may be made in a letter format if it contains all the necessary information required on the forms.
Step 2: City Response
The Freedom of Information Officer shall determine whether the information is exempt or nonexempt under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The City shall respond to a written request within five (5) working days from the receipt of the request. It is possible that the City will request an additional five (5) working days to fulfill the request. However, a written response informing the requestor of an extension will be made by the fifth (5th) working day.
The City shall respond to the request in the following manner:
- Approve the request
- Approve in part and deny in part / "Partial Denial"
- Deny the request
- Give notice of an extension
- Provide the requestor with an opportunity to appeal a response
Response to Commercial Request:
A requestor must inform the City if a FOIA request is going to be used for a commercial purpose. It is a violation of the Act to attempt to procure a public record without disclosing that the use is for a commercial purpose. For requests for commercial purposes the City has twenty-one (21) days to respond with an estimate when the request will be completed and the fees associated with it. However, these records must be provided within a reasonable time. The City may require the requestor to pay in full before copying any documents.
Requests from the news media or non-profit scientific or academic organizations are not classified as a request for commercial purpose if the purpose of the information is to:
- Access and disseminate information concerning news and current or past events.
- Write articles of opinion or features of interest to the public.
- Use for the purpose of academic, scientific or public research/education.
Upon approval of a request for public records, the City may either provide the materials immediately or up to five days after a request, give notice that the materials shall be made available upon payment of reproduction costs, or give notice of the time and place for inspection of records. Generally, public records will be made available for inspection during regular City business hours. When inspecting records, a City employee may be present throughout the inspection.
Categorical requests creating an undue burden upon the City shall be denied only after extending to the requestor an opportunity to reduce the request to manageable proportions.
A denial of a request for public records shall be made in writing. It shall state a detailed reason for the denial in accordance with either Section 3(f) or Section 7 of the Freedom of Information Act, and the names and titles of the individual responsible for the decision. It shall also give notice of the requestor's right to appeal the denial, in writing, to the Public Access Counselor (PAC), with the address and telephone number of PAC, and the right to judicial review under Section 11 of the Act.
The PAC shall either affirm the denial, provide access to the records, or provide access to portions of the records.
The Lincoln Police Department has a seperate form for expedited and necessary information.