Definition of Public Records
Under FOIA, there are three parts to a public record: i) it is a documentary material; ii) that pertains to the transaction of public business; iii) that is prepared by or for, or has been or is being used by, received by, in the possession of, or under the control of the park district (5 ILCS 140/2). If a record does not meet all three of those requirements, then it is not a public record. “Documentary materials” includes all records, reports, forms, writings, letters, memoranda, books, papers, maps, photographs, microfilms, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, electronic communications, recorded information and all other documentary materials. (5 ILCS 140/25)
Public Records include:
- Records of public funds
- Prevailing Wage payroll records (employees’ private information must be redacted)
- Arrest Information (“certain information may be redacted if it would interfere with law-enforcement proceeding or endanger safety” (5 ILCS 140/2.15)
- Settlement agreements
The exemptions to FOIA have been greatly revised and as a result a careful analysis should be performed if the park district is going to deny a records request based upon an exemption since the burden of proof is on the park district.(5 ILCS 140/3.1)
Special procedures apply for commercial requests. A commercial request is one in which the requester seeks to use all or part of the record for the sale, resale or solicitation or advertisement for services. It is a violation of FOIA to falsely state that a commercial request is not a commercial request.
Requests made by news media, non-profit organizations, scientific organizations or academic organization are not commercial requests if they are made for the purposes of journalism, research or similar purposes (5 ILCS 140/2).