Illinois Senate Votes To Restrict Public Records Access

The Illinois Senate voted last Thursday on a bill to limit public records access to performance evaluations of public employees.

The proposed law restricts job performance evaluations of all public employees from disclosure.

Critics say the bill scales back the state’s improved Freedom of Information Act that took effect Jan. 1, 2010.

State worker’s unions that represent public employees support the bill. They argue that public access to performance evaluations could cause a hostile work environment because public employees would be able to access each other’s evaluations.

There are currently 7 proposed bills in the Illionois senate that seek to restrict public records access.

Following the arrest, impeachment and indictment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the state passed a Freedom of Information Act reform that eased access to public records and forced state agencies to respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner.

Proposed laws to limit the new FOIA rules include a bill to allow public agencies to charge higher fees by eliminating the new limit of 15 cents a page. Another bill would remove the requirement that courts award attorney fees to citizens who win in court over illegally-withheld records. Other bills seek to allow public agencies to withhold records if they pertain to any issue “under investigation”.

The Illinois Press Association is critical of the proposed FOIA changes.

Illinois Press Association general counsel Don Craven said: “We had hoped that they’d let the ink dry on the new FOIA bill before they started changing it.”

[ Source: Northwest Herald ]