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According to the Attorney General’s Public Access Opinion 21-007, Peter Czosnyka sent a FOIA (5 ILCS 140/1) request to the Chicago City Clerk’s Office seeking copies of “letters of exception: residential parking issued in the 45th Ward between 05/20/18 to 03/30/21, showing names”.  After an extension, the City Clerk’s Office provided the copies but redacted the subjects’ names, home addresses, vehicle makes/models and license plate numbers. Czosnyka filed a Request for Review that contested the denial of the names of those persons.

Under Section 1 of FOIA, it states in part that “all records in the custody or possession of a public body are presumed to be open to inspection or copying. Any public body that asserts that a record is exempt for disclosure has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that it is exempt.”

The City Clerk’s Office cited Section 7(1)(b) and 7(1)(1)(c) as the basis for nondisclosure of the names. The City Clerk’s Office argued that that the information was private information and therefore exempt. The AG’s office cited Lieber v Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, 176 Ill. 2d 401 (1997) where the Illinois Supreme Court held that names are not exempt from disclosure as “personal information”.

Section 7(1)(c) of FOIA exempts personal information contained within public records when the disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. The AG’s office determined that the City Clerk failed to show that the disclosure was highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person to disclose and that the City Clerk violated FOIA by improperly denying disclosure of the residents’ names.

For more information about this article, contact Tressler attorney Stacy De Leon at sdeleon@tresslerllp.com.