The purpose of the Freedom of Information Act is to ensure 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.
The principle mandate of the Act provides that each public body shall make available to any person for inspection, or upon submission of a written request, to provide copies of any requested records that are subject to disclosure under the Act. Not all records are subject to disclosure, and the Act provides a number of exemptions.
This Act is not intended to be used to violate individual privacy, nor for the purpose of furthering a commercial enterprise, or to disrupt the duly-undertaken work of any public body independent of the fulfillment of any of the rights of the people to access to information (5 ILCS 140/1).
Response Time On FOIA Request
All written requests shall be responded to within five (5) working days (5 ILCS/140/3) following the date the request is received, except in the instance when the request is for commercial purposes. (Within 21 working days of receiving a request for commercial purposes Winnebago County will: (1) provide a reasonable estimate of time needed to comply with the request along with an estimate of the fees which the requestor will be charged; (2) deny the request pursuant to a statutory exemption; (3) notify the requestor if the request is unduly burdensome and allow the requestor to revise the request to manageable proportions; or (4) provide the requested records. .) The five (5) day count begins the day after the receipt of the FOIA request by the Department Head, or designee. The requester may be notified of a five (5) day extension (working days) if the files are voluminous, at different locations, or if other reasons make it impossible to assemble and mail the request out within the normal five (5) day period.
All county employees are encouraged to provide available information when requested by the public. Information provided or denied under the FOIA, however, must conform to the legal requirements under the Act. Certain documents may be exempt from disclosure pursuant to specific sections in the Freedom of Information Act (5ILCS 140/3(g);7;7.5).
When a public body denies a request for public records, that body must, within five (5) working days, or within any extended compliance period provided for in the Act, notify the person who made the request, by letter, of the decision to deny the request. The letter must explain the reasons for the denial, and give the names and titles of all persons responsible for the denial.
Appeal of Denial of FOIA Requests
Any person denied access to inspect or copy any public record for any reason may appeal the denial by sending a written notice of appeal to the Public Access Counselor at the following address:
Public Access Counselor
Office of the Attorney General
500 S. 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: 877-299-FOIA (3642)
You also have the right to seek judicial review for your denial by filing a law suit in the State circuit court (5 ILCS 140/11).