FOIA for Community Services

The Executive Director completes annual training and recertification for Freedom of Information Rights.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a state statute that provides the public the right to access government documents and records. The premise behind FOIA is that the public has a right to know what the government is doing. The law provides that a person can ask a public body for a copy of its records on a specific subject and the public body must provide those records, unless there is an exemption in the statute that protects those records from disclosure (for example: records containing information concerning trade secrets or personal privacy.)

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is designed to ensure that Illinois residents can obtain information about their government. Beginning on January 1, 2010 key changes to the Freedom of Information Act will take effect and in turn will provide Illinois residents with a more open and accountable government. The following is an overview of the key changes:

The two requirements for a FOIA request to the Effingham City/County Committee On Aging are:

  1. It must reasonably describe the specific records sought and
  2. Must be made in accordance with the FOIA regulations.

The FOIA does not require ECCOA to answer questions, issue opinions, conduct legal research, create records or produce tangible objects in order to respond to a request.

A reasonable description of ECCOA would allow the FOIA officer to locate records using reasonable efforts. For example, your description should contain enough file-related information (type of document, title, subject area, date of creation, originating office) or enough event-related information (date and circumstances surrounding the event the record covers) to permit a focused search.

A request must reasonably describe the record being sought. The request must be specific enough to permit the FOIA officer to locate the record in a reasonable period of time.

It is to everyone's advantage if requests are as precise and as narrow as possible. The requester benefits because the request can be processed more quickly and at less cost. ECCOA benefits because it can do a better job responding to the request. ECCOA will also be able to use its resources to respond to more requests. The FOIA works best when both the requester and ECCOA act cooperatively.

First-party requests processed under FOIA for records found in "systems of records" (the term "system of records" means a group of any records under the control of ECCOA from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual) will also be processed under the Privacy Act, regardless of the statute cited in the request. Requesters will always be given the benefit of the statue with the more liberal release requirement.

Make certain your request includes the following:

  • Your contact information (Required: Name, Mailing Address, Phone number, while optional, may help you faster service if we need to contact you regarding your request)
  • Description of the records you are requesting
  • Agreement to pay reasonable fees, if applicable
  • Request is not in the form of a question (FOIA does not require agencies to answer questions; questions posed as FOIA requests will not be processed.)
  • If you are requesting records on yourself or another individual, see additional requirements below.

Limits on FOIA Requests:

While the FOIA supports disclosure of certain ECCOA records, the law recognizes the legitimate need to restrict disclosure of some information. The FOIA does not grant an absolute right to examine certain documents; the FOIA establishes the right to request records and to receive a response to the request. If a record cannot be released, the requestor is entitled to the told the reason for the denial. The requester also has a right to appeal the denial and, if necessary, to challenge it in court.

  • Requests must reasonably describe records sought
  • A requester may ask for records - NOT information
  • Agencies are not required to collect information they do not have, nor must agencies research or analyze data for a requester
  • FOIA is not a research aide and we are not required to answer questions. If your request is in the form of a question (example: "Why did I need to use this entrance?") your request will NOT be processed and you will be asked to clarify what records you are seeking.

There are certain types of information that are not available under the FOIA:

  • Tangible objects may not be requested under the FOIA
  • Information about another individual may be requested under the FOIA but release is subject to application of the balancing test to decide whether the privacy interest of the affected party outweighs the public interest in the release of said information.

FOIA Exemptions:

The FOIA law has resumption that all information is public, unless the public body proves otherwise. There are several exceptions to public disclosure that include but are not limited to:

  • Private information - "Private information" is exempt from disclosure under FOIA. FOIA defines "private information" as "unique identifiers, including a person's social security number, drivers license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, and personal e-mail addresses." Under FOIA "private information also includes home addresses and personal license plate numbers, except as otherwise provided by law or when compiled without possibility of attribution to any person."
  • Personal information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the person who is the subject of the information. Under FOIA, the " unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" means the disclosure of the information that is highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person and in which the subject's right to privacy outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information." Disclosing information that relates to the public duties of public employees is not considered an invasion of personal privacy.
  • Information that, if disclosed, might endanger anyone's life or physical safety.
  • Preliminary drafts or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated, unless the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.
  • Business trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is proprietary, privileged or confidential and disclosure would cause a competitive harm to the person or business.
  • Proposals are bids for any contract, until a final selection is made.
  • Requests that are "unduly burdensome."

Direct All Correspondence to the Executive Director of ECCOA:

Jean Bohnhoff
209 S Merchant St
Effingham IL 62401