Taking a closer look at my FOIA denial

In regards to my previous post about my FOIA being denied, I have decided to dig into the law and learn some of the nitty-gritty details of what is going on here. So my purpose here is to learn and understand more about the law under which we operate.

Here is the meat of the denial I am going to focus on (I am purposefully ignoring the section about Student Records and Personally Identifiable information):

“In addition, such documents are also exempt from disclosure since they are trade secrets or commercial information obtained from a person or business where the trade secrets or commercial information are furnished under a claim that they are proprietary, privileged, or confidential, and disclosure of the trade secrets or commercial information would cause competitive harm to the person or business. 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(g). In addition, such documents are exempt from disclosure under the FOIA since they constitute valuable formulae and research data obtained or produced by any public body when disclosure could reasonably be expected to produce private gain or public loss. 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(i).”

So we are dealing with two exemptions under FOIA law (5 ILCS 140/7(1)), ‘g’ and ‘i’. Before I hop over there, read the summary here carefully. Basically, Unit 4 is claiming that the school assignment data is proprietary (or privileged or confidential) trade secrets, and that they have valuable formulae which, if everyone knew about it, might be used for commercial gain. The way I read that is like “Intellectual property rights”, although I am no lawyer and I have no idea if that is even in the same ballpark, but that is what it makes me think of. So let’s go look at the what the reference Law says.

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=000501400K7

And here is what the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has to say regarding the exemptions:

http://www.rcfp.org/illinois-open-government-guide/ii-exemptions-and-other-legal-limitations/exemptions-open-records-s-4

So first, Read the rest of this entry »

Public Access Counselor and the Attorney General's office

I had an excellent conversation with Mr. Christopher Boggs from the Public Access Bureau of the Attorney General’s office. In short, he gave me the green light to publicly post any and all correspondence with his office, so without further ado:

 

Why am I making a blog post about this? For the record, my interest is about pursuing open and transparent governance. Mr. Boggs related how Illinois and Chicago have had a rash of corruption and heavy-handed tactics exhibited by our elected officials, and thus the recently updated FOIA and OMA laws are an attempt to bring power back to the citizens. I am very much inspired by this, because I have come to believe that we the people have given much of our power away, and I firmly believe that the most healthy thing is for us to take it back. Please note that I am not talking about anarchy; government, when executed within the proper boundaries, is critical and fundamental to society. I get that. But when government is bloated, rotten and corrosive, we need a way to either correct it or replace it. Isn’t that what we told England a few hundred years ago? In some ways, it seems the US has come full circle.

 

So my goal is not meant to make any one person or an entity look bad. Rather, my post is about encouraging others to fight for a healthy balance of power between the people and the decision-makers. Mr. Boggs, and the entire Public Access Bureau, are all about bringing sunshine into our government. Amen to that! I am all for it.

 

Mr. Boggs also lamented that the Bureau is terribly backlogged; I get the impression they are burning the candle at both ends. Tons of FOIA requests are being filed about the Chicago Public School system. I am so glad we are not embroiled in that. 🙂

 

So, I encourage you to join me in working for a balance. My personal journey has led me to push hard for changes in Controlled Choice (aka, Schools of Choice, Kindergarten Lottery, etc) by suggesting policy changes and interacting with board members (individually and as a group). Where is your path leading?

 

To aid in this effort, I have created a repository for FOIA documents. It is still really rough and takes a lot of work to maintain, but I wanted to get something out there with the hopes that it will evolve and because more organic.

 

June 24th Board Retreat agenda is up

The agenda for the June 24th Board Retreat has been posted – essentially the only item is a 3-page report from Dr. Wiegand about her goals:

http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/files/98U4ZH68A3D4/$file/Goals%20and%20indicators%2013-14.pdf

The goals all seem good, but very high-level (ie, 50,000 ft view). I hope that the ensuing discussion and any other documents shared at the board retreat find their way to the public domain so that we can all eventually participate. I am sure there is a bunch of other things being planned as well. *grin* No, I have no insider information, just using common sense – I mean, it’s a 3-hour meeting, they got to talk about more than a mere 3-page report, right? *grin* One would hope.

I am curious why the board retreat is not posted on the Unit 4 front page, nor on the BOE “meetings and agenda” page.  I still have no idea how much the public will actually be able to interact, outside the standard 3-minutes/person “Public Comment” time.

 

UPDATE: Stephanie Stuart says that there will be time for “free-flow” conversation and that the public will be invited to participate in that.