“ It is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees.... It is a fundamental obligation of government to operate openly and provide public records as efficiently as possible....” (5 ILCS 140/1)
The Freedom of Information Act generally provides that anyone is entitled to inspect, copy, and have a copy of any public record in the possession or under the control of any public body. That includes emails or texts on an official's private computer or phone that relate to public business.
There are some records where the public body is allowed to blank-out certain information, or even withhold the entire record. Examples include a person's social security number, or autopsy photos.
Sometimes public bodies interpret those limited exemptions too loosely. A requester may sue for the records or information denied, and the public body will have to pay his attorney's fees and court costs if he prevails. If the public body intentionally violated the law, or otherwise operated in bad faith, it can also be fined $2,500 to $5,000 for each occurrence.
Instead of suing, within 60 days after the denial the requester can request a review by the Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General's Office. The Public Access Counselor can review the situation and advise the public body to release improperly withheld information. Sometimes, the Public Access Counselor can even compel the release.