FOIA Administrative Policy

I. Summary and Purpose
The purpose of this document is to establish an Administrative Policy for the City of Wheaton to implement the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA" or "the Act")(5 ILCS 140/1 et seq.).

The Act establishes a presumption that all records are open to inspection or copying; access to public records is a fundamental obligation of government; and compliance with the Act is a primary duty of public bodies, regardless of fiscal impact.

Certain City records have been designated as "readily available"; and therefore, are not considered FOIA requests. Requests for readily available documents should be handled as expeditiously as possible, but no later than 24 hours from the time of the request. A listing of readily available documents is available in the T Drive, FOIA Forms. Please note: if a FOIA request has been submitted for a document that is classified as readily available, that request must be processed according to FOIA regulations.

II. Form and Content of FOIA Requests
Requests in accordance with the Act must be made in writing and may be on forms provided by the City (although use of a specific City form cannot be required). FOIA requests can be submitted online, in person, by mail, email or fax. The FOIA officer cannot require the requester to specify the purpose for a request, except to determine whether the records are requested for a commercial purpose or whether to grant a request for a fee waiver. If a waiver is requested, the person requesting the documents must state the specific purpose for the request and indicate that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest.

Ill. Submittal of FOIA Requests
Persons seeking records of the City shall submit a written request to one of the designated FOIA officers listed below:

List of FOIA Officers:

A FOIA request that seeks records from multiple departments shall be forwarded to such departments by the receiving FOIA Officer. All responsive records shall be sent to the City Clerk or Administrative Assistant in City Hall for response to the requester.

IV. FOIA Processing Procedures

  1. Upon receipt of a FOIA Request, the FOIA officer must:
    1. Log the request in the City's FOIA tracking system;
    2. Note the date and time the request was received;
    3. Calculate and note the five (5) business day response time on the request (day one is counted as the day after receipt of the request); and,
    4. The FOIA Officer must, within five (5) business days of the date of request, do one of the following:
      1. Comply with the request by providing the records sought with appropriate redactions if necessary, or reply "no records found". The documents must be provided in the format in which they are requested (i.e., Word, Excel, pdf, etc.). Avoid making duplicate copies of the same records which may appear in more than one department's files.
        Records/documents in the possession of a City contractor are subject to FOIA and must be obtained from the contractor and provided to the requester within the required response deadline. An extension of time should be requested in these circumstances.
      2. Contact the requester if clarification is needed in order to process the request. A request for an extension of time may be needed if you have not received clarification from the requester prior to the due date.
      3. Request an extension of time, in writing, for an additional five (5) business days if necessary. The new response date should be stated in the correspondence. If the FOIA officer and requester mutually agree to extend the compliance time further (beyond the additional five business days), such agreement must also be in writing. The basis for an extension must be for one of the following reasons:
        1. The requested records are stored in whole or in part at other locations than the office having charge of the requested records;
        2. The request requires the collection of a substantial number of specified records;
        3. The request is couched in categorical terms and requires an extensive search for the records responsive to it;
        4. The requested records have not been located in the course of a routine search and additional efforts are being made to locate them;
        5. The requested records require examination and evaluation by personnel having the necessary competence and discretion to determine if they are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act or should be revealed only with the appropriate redactions;
        6. The request for records cannot be complied with by the City within the five (5) day period without unduly burdening or interfering with the operations of the public body;
        7. There is a need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another public body having a substantial interest in the determination or subject matter of the request.
        Provide the documents within the extended time period for response.
      4. Deny the request (see Section IV). Please note: Suggested language for a response, extension of time or denial can be found in the T Drive, FOIA Forms. City records may be inspected if requested. Building plans can be inspected by or provided to the property owner, upon showing proof of ownership for their property. Property owners may also receive copies of all documents upon inspection, including building plans. Other parties may inspect and/or obtain copies of building plans provided they have written authorization from the property owner indicating the plans can be released to them.
    5. Log status and completion information into the City's tracking system. This information should include the name of the FOIA officer processing the request. Additionally, note the statutory exemption used for a denial or redactions.
    6. All FOIA documents, including the original request, a copy of the response, a record of written communications with the requester, and a copy of other communications, should be forwarded to the City Clerk for retention in accordance with the State's record retention regulations.
  2. Commercial Requests
    Commercial requests are requests where public records (or the information to be derived therefrom) are used for sale, resale, solicitation, or advertisement for sales or services. Within twenty-one (21) business days after receipt of such request, the City must do one of the following:
    1. provide the requester with an estimate of the time required to provide the requested records;
    2. deny the request pursuant to the Act;
    3. notify the requester that the request is unduly burdensome and provide an opportunity to reduce the request to manageable proportions;
    4. provide the records requested.
    It is a violation of FOIA for a person to knowingly obtain public records for a commercial purpose without disclosing that it is for a commercial purpose if requested to do so by the City.
  3. Recurrent Requesters
    A recurrent requester is anyone who, in the 12 months immediately preceding the request, submits (i) a minimum of 50 requests for records, (ii) a minimum of 15 requests for records within a 30-day period, or (iii) a minimum of 7 requests for records within a 7-day period. Responses to recurrent requesters must be made within twenty-one (21) business days after receipt.

    Within five (5) business days after receiving a request from a recurrent requester, the requester must be notified that it is being treated as a "recurrent requester" request, why the request is being treated that way, and that a response will be provided within twenty-one (21) days.

  4. Voluminous Requests
    A voluminous request means a request that (i) includes more than five individual requests for more than five different categories of records or a combination of individual requests that total requests for more than five different categories of records in a period of 20 business days or (ii) requires the compilation of more than 500 pages of public records unless a single requested record exceeds 500 pages. Voluminous requests do not include requests made by news media and non-profit, scientific, or academic organizations.

    Within five (5) business days of receiving a voluminous request, you must notify the requester you are treating the request as a voluminous request, why you are treating it as a voluminous request, and give the requester ten (10) business days to amend the request so it will no longer be treated as a voluminous request. If the request continues to be a voluminous request or you do not hear from the requester within ten (10) business days, you should process or deny the request.

V. FOIA Denials/Unduly Burdensome Request Procedures

  1. Denials. A denial must be in writing and must be based on an exemption listed in Sections 7 or 7.5 of the Act. It must also identify the name(s) and title(s) of each person responsible for the denial and their telephone number. If information is redacted, you must also specify the exemption claimed for the redaction. The denial must provide notice of the requester's right to seek review of the denial by the Public Access Counselor, along with the Counselor's address and phone number, as well as the requester's right to judicial review under Section 11 of the Act.
  2. Requests may be determined to be unduly burdensome if the burden on the City outweighs the public interest in the information. Without exception, the FOIA officer cannot make the determination the request is unduly burdensome; that determination can be made solely by the City Attorney who will provide language for denials based on an unduly burdensome request. This exemption cannot be invoked, however, without first allowing the requester an opportunity to reduce the request to manageable proportions.

VI. Fees
A per-page copying fee of $0.10 should be charged for black and white letter, legal, or tabloid-size copies beginning with page 51 (the first 50 pages are to be provided at no charge). Refer to the Fee Schedule in the City Code for costs of color or larger-sized documents. If the request required the copying of a large amount of documents, you may wish to obtain authorization from the requestor prior to making the copies and obtain payment in advance for amounts in excess of $10.00. Refer to Section 6. (a-5) of the Act for fees that can be charged for voluminous requests.