Transparency on my Requests
Am I a "Recurrent Requester"?
I’ve gotten a little bit of feedback that I am submitting too many FOIA requests and burdening the District with work in attempt to troll. That is certainly not the intent of this project.
In the spirit of transparency, I’ve decided I will start sharing a link to the requests I have submitted. You can view the current list here or just look at my copy paste below:
In total, to District 65 I have submitted 13 FOIA requests over a period of 6 months. Two of them have required extra work because I have had to appeal with the IL Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor. That process takes a long time. Most of my requests have been pretty straightforward; copies of contracts, slides, or financial statements. A few have required additional work. I withdrew one request because I didn’t (at the time) have a good sense of FOIA exemptions.
I have always been cautious to make sure that I am compliant with the IL FOIA law, which sets guidelines for how many requests is too many. I am far below the statutory guidelines which are 50/year, 15/month or 7/week. Even if I was above the limit, there is an exemption below for people who are seeking to “access and disseminate information concerning news”.
g) "Recurrent requester", as used in Section 3.2 of this Act, means a person that, in the 12 months immediately preceding the request, has submitted to the same public body (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. For purposes of this definition, requests made by news media and non-profit, scientific, or academic organizations shall not be considered in calculating the number of requests made in the time periods in this definition when the principal purpose of the requests is (i) to access and disseminate information concerning news and current or passing events, (ii) for articles of opinion or features of interest to the public, or (iii) for the purpose of academic, scientific, or public research or education.
If anyone suggests my volume is too great or I am overwhelming the District’s limited infrastructure, I believe those claims to be false. This is an organization that has revenues of $150 million dollars per year, surely they can handle 2 requests of photocopies per month from a citizen journalist.
If you’d like a hard copy of any of the requests or responses, I will share a PDF. Just email me.
As a former reporter, I don't think the amount or type of requests you are making seem overdone. I appreciated your earlier post and agree with you - the FOIA exists to provide the public with an apparatus for transparency and accountability. And, having been on the receiving end of processing FOIA requests, while it may be sometimes burdensome, it is just part of the job.
Let's also be clear, processing a FOIA request is not falling into the hands of a classroom educator, or educator-support staff. The budget hit is minimal.
And...if any government agency believes they are getting too many FOIA requests it might warrant an internal conversation among leadership as to whether they are providing the public an adequate level of transparency, accountability and insight into how they operate.