AG Says Personal Calendars May Be Subject to FOIA

September 29, 2015

 

Are the appointment calendars of those who run public bodies in Illinois subject to FOIA?

Yes, at least in part, according to a recent binding opinion issued by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

 Finding that Governor Bruce Rauner’s appointment calendar was a “public record” because it was prepared and maintained by the Governor’s office and pertained to public business, the Attorney General last month ordered the Governor’s Office to turn over unredacted copies of the Governor’s appointment book from April 1, 2015 to May 14, 2015, including the times and dates of meetings and the names and titles of those present, to a newspaper reporter who had filed a valid request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

“The facts in this record establish that the Governor’s calendar is maintained by his personal assistant – who is a State employee – and is used for scheduling official meetings and other governmental events,” Michael J. Luke, counsel to the Attorney General, wrote in the opinion.  “Thus, the calendar pertains to the transaction of public business.”

The Governor’s Office originally had produced only a redacted version to the requester - a reporter for the Illinois Times – arguing that various FOIA exemptions enabled it to withhold certain information such as the subject matter of meetings and the names of attendees.  Specifically, the Governor’s Office argued that Sections 7(1)(f), which exempts certain “pre-decisional” communications, and 7(1)(m), which exempts “attorney-client” communications, applied because the meetings involved conversations about policies in which attorneys were present.

Noting that such exemptions might apply in some cases, the AG nonetheless found that the Governor’s Office in this case had failed to meet its burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that the redacted information was exempt from disclosure under those sections.

For those who oversee and administer public bodies, the message is clear: appointment calendars containing the times and dates of meetings involving the transaction of public business, and the identities of those present at such meetings, may be subject to FOIA. 

The binding opinion is PA 15-008, issued September 22, 2015.  A copy can be found here. PA_15-008.pdf (744 KB)