The Illinois Attorney General says a new report about requests for public records is meant to foster transparency in government, but one area that could be added to the report is the lack of transparency for Illinois’ legislative leaders.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan released the Public Access Bureau’s annual report detailing more than 4,700 disputes in 2015 media and members of the public have had with governments allegedly not complying with Freedom of Information Act requests.
The report says since 2010 the bureau has cleared 85 percent of cases.
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“We have made progress in fostering greater transparency in Illinois,” Madigan said in a news release about the report, “but it is clear we still have work to do to ensure access to government at all levels.”
The Better Government Association’s Andy Shaw tells WMAY Springfield one area where more transparency is needed is with legislative leaders. The Associated Press reported that leaders often assert they are exempt from open records requests.
“You have a number of legislative leaders essentially saying they do not have to turn over data about their calendars and their activities and their emails to news media or watchdogs who ask for that because they claim immunity,” Shaw said.
He added that it will be difficult to change the status quo because doing so would require either court action or that lawmakers adopt laws applying to themselves.
“FOIA compliance may have to be resolved in court because if legislative leaders believe they are immune, then the same leaders are not going to change the laws,” Shaw said.
Madigan’s news release regarding the report coincides with Sunshine Week, a time set aside by the American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to promote government transparency.