ENSURING OPEN AND HONEST GOVERNMENT

Letters Approving or Denying the Assertion of the 7(1)(c) or 7(1)(f) Exemptions

From January 1, 2010 through August 26, 2011, when a public body intended to deny a FOIA request in whole or in part by asserting that the records were exempt from disclosure under subsection 7(1)(c) or 7(1)(f) of FOIA, the public body had to provide written notice of the intent to deny to the Public Access Counselor. Subsection 9.5(b) of FOIA, 5 ILCS 140/9.5(b), provided for this process. We referred to this process as seeking pre-authorization from the Public Access Counselor to rely on one of these exemptions.

During this time, we provided the following letters that the Public Access Counselor issued to public bodies seeking pre-authorization to withhold information based on the exemptions in subsections 7(1)(c) or 7(1)(f) of FOIA, 5 ILCS 140/71(c), 7(1)(f).

On August 26, 2011, the Governor signed Public Act 97-579, which eliminated section 9.5(b) and the pre-authorization process. While public bodies are therefore no longer required to seek pre-authorization, we continue to provide access to these pre-authorization letters to serve as a guide for the assertion of subsection 7(1)(c) or 7(1)(f).

To make it easier to review these letters, we have identified them in the following manner.

Case Number:
The case number represents the identifier that links the document to the Public Access Counselor’s file on each matter

Pre-Authorization Type:
We have divided the pre-authorization letters into two types:

  • Letters approving the public body’s use of an exemption are identified by “al” for “approval letter.”
  • Letters denying the public body’s use of an exemption are identified by “dl” for “denial letter.”
  • In some instances, a pre-authorization letter may contain both components and will appear as “pre-auth al dl.”

Exemption Type:
Under FOIA, public bodies must request pre-authorization to assert two specific exemptions as the basis to withhold information from disclosure:

  • Section 7(1)(c), the personal privacy exemption, and
  • Section 7(1)(f), the exemption for preliminary drafts, notes, or other pre-decisional information.

Issue:
There are a number of issues that are presented in the pre-authorization letters. To assist in your review of these letters, we identify several of the issues that are addressed in multiple letters, such as:

  • application information (app inf),
  • date of birth (dob),
  • victim privacy (vic priv),
  • witness privacy (wit priv),
  • employee information (emp inf),
  • social security numbers (ssi)

Public Body Type:
There are several types of public bodies that have requested pre-authorization from the Public Access Counselor. To assist in your review of these letters, we identify the type of public body involved in each letter. They are:

  • police departments (pd),
  • municipalities (mun),
  • state agencies (sa),
  • universities (univ),
  • county governments (county), and
  • regional authorities, such as Metra or RTA (reg auth).

Examples of How Letters are Identified:

5326 pre-auth al 7(1)(c) dob pd
This is a pre-authorization approval letter (al) that’s associated with case number 5326. A local police department (pd) sought permission from the Public Access Counselor to redact the date of birth (dob) from a police report citing 7(1)(c), the personal privacy exemption.

6116 pre-auth al 7(1)(f) sa
This is a pre-authorization approval letter (al) that’s associated with case number 6116. A state agency (sa) sought permission from the Public Access Counselor to redact pre-decisional information from agency records citing 7(1)(f), the exemption for preliminary drafts, notes and pre-decisional information.

6667 pre-auth al 7(1)(c) dob pd
This is a pre-authorization approval letter (al) that’s associated with case number 6667. A local police department (pd) sought permission from the Public Access Counselor to redact the date of birth (dob) from a police report citing 7(1)(c), the personal privacy exemption.