The Public Access Counselor of the Illinois Attorney General (PAC) issued its ninth binding opinion for 2023 finding a public body in violation of FOIA for withholding police reports for a teacher who had been arrested and convicted of a crime against a minor victim. PAC Op. 23-009.
A reporter had filed a FOIA request for records pertaining to the conviction of a public school teacher for criminal behavior against a minor student. The police department denied the request, arguing the report was exempt from release because disclosure would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy to the alleged minor victim. The reporter appealed to the PAC, and the PAC disagreed with the police department’s claim that release of the report would be an invasion of privacy of the minor, finding that identifying information could be redacted and the remainder of the report released. Although the PAC acknowledged that a 2017 Appellate Court had issued an opinion finding that the public has little interest in the salacious and explicit details of crimes against a minor so the entire report could be withhold because disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy of the minor victim; nevertheless, the PAC distinguished that case and ordered the police department to release the requested report to the reporter, with redactions of the minor’s identifying information and limited instances where explicit details were included.
In its conclusion, the PAC stated it would provide the police department with a copy of the report with its own notes as to which portions of the record the PAC believed could be redacted. This is the first opinion that we are aware of that included such specific direction from the PAC.
Note that the opinion does not deal with any claim that the teacher had a right to privacy in not having the report released, likely because the teacher had been charged, convicted, and sentenced for his crimes.