In 2022, an inmate submitted a request to a City for a copy of his own letter he had sent to the Mayor
complaining about the conduct of the City’s attorney. The City denied the request, arguing, among other reasons, that the letter
was not a “public record” under FOIA because it was addressed to the Mayor who
did not qualify as a “public body” under FOIA. The requestor sued the City
claiming the City’s denial violated FOIA, and the circuit court ruled in the City’s favor.

On appeal, the Appellate Court upheld the
circuit court’s ruling in Shehadeh
v. City of Taylorville

First, the Appellate Court held that the requestor’s letter
complaining about the conduct of the City’s attorney was not a public record because it did not “pertain to the
transaction of public business,” like business or community interests and instead pertained to the requestor’s private affairs.

Second, the Appellate Court ruled that the requestor’s letter
addressed to the Mayor did not qualify as a public record under FOIA
because it was not “received by, in the possession of, or under the control of
a public body.” After analyzing FOIA’s definition of a “public body” and prior
Illinois cases concluding that an individual alderperson was not a “public body”
under FOIA, the Appellate Court concluded that the Mayor is not a
“public body” under FOIA. The Court rejected the requestor’s argument
that an individual Alderperson should be distinguished from a Mayor, noting that even
though a Mayor (unlike an individual Alderperson) has legal authority to make
certain unilateral decisions and actions, that distinction does not transform a Mayor into a “public body” under FOIA.

Finally, the Appellate Court determined that the requestor’s request asking for a copy of his own letter was inconsistent with FOIA’s
legislative purpose of making public records open and accessible to the public,
because requiring the City to provide the requestor with a copy of his own
letter would do nothing to further this purpose.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov and Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink