In 2018, a requestor submitted several FOIA requests to Aurora Downtown, a not-for-profit organization, seeking certain records relating to the 2017 election. After Aurora Downtown failed to respond to all of the requests, the requestor filed a lawsuit, claiming that Aurora Downtown violated FOIA by providing incomplete responses to the FOIA requests. Aurora Downtown responded that it was not a “public body” subject to FOIA, but was instead an “independent” body organized as a not-for-profit corporation.
FOIA section 2(a) defines a public body, in relevant part, as follows:
Public body” means all legislative, executive, administrative, or advisory bodies of the State, state universities and colleges, counties, townships, cities, villages, incorporated towns, school districts and all other municipal corporations, boards, bureaus, committees, or commissions of this State, any subsidiary bodies of any of the foregoing…” (emphasis added)
The circuit court agreed with Aurora Downtown and dismissed the complaint, finding that Aurora Downtown was not a “subsidiary body” of a public body and so was not subject to respond to FOIA.
After the requestor appealed, the Appellate court in River Breeze,LLC v. Granholm overturned the circuit court’s dismissal and sent the case back for further proceedings, finding that the circuit court erred when it prematurely concluded that Aurora Downtown was not a “subsidiary body” subject to FOIA.
The Appellate Court noted that determining whether a private organization is a subsidiary public body under FOIA requires application of the Illinois Supreme Court’s four-factor “subsidiary body” test. In this case, the Appellate Court found that the requestor had alleged in his complaint enough facts in support of Aurora Downtown being a subsidiary body of the City of Aurora to survive a motion to dismiss. Specifically, the requestor alleged that Aurora Downtown was created by a City of Aurora ordinance, which identified Aurora Downtown as a City agency, and that Aurora Downtown operated as an advisory body to the City in implementing certain City projects. The Appellate Court rejected Aurora Downtown’s argument that it had an independent legal identity as a duly organized not-for-profit corporation, finding that this fact alone cannot establish that Aurora Downtown is not a subsidiary public body under FOIA, and therefore, this fact could not justify the trial court’s dismissal of this allegation. The Appellate Court sent it back to the circuit court for further proceedings.
Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink