Illinois' FOIA laws were strengthened and expanded as of Jan. 1, but
open government advocates view the new legislation as a step
Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said the governor has not yet
decided if he will sign the bill into law but will review it soon.
In sponsoring the legislation, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford,
D-Westchester, said job evaluations should remain confidential and
unavailable to the public in order to protect the privacy of public
employees. She also said the exemption would prompt public employees
to put more faith and trust in their public officials.
"There has to be a dividing line, and I believe that this bill in
itself would do that," Lightford said. "It will restore the public
trust. As public elected officials, let our state employees, our
local employees know that we do appreciate their efforts. We do
appreciate their work."
She said some individuals may, in an attempt to incriminate a public
employee, submit a request for a performance evaluation.
"(Public employees) should not be subject to ridicule by anybody who
wants to know their evaluation on their job," Lightford said.
State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, voted against the bill and said
it takes away transparency of government for Illinois residents.
Past FOIA reforms took steps toward a more open government, but this
measure simply backpedals, he said.
"At the end of the day, people want to feel like if they want to,
(they can) go
look and find out where their tax dollars are being spent," Murphy
said. "They have the right to do it, and they should have the
opportunity to do it. This whittled that away."
Murphy acknowledged that some FOIA requests could be filed with the
intent to incriminate or hurt a public employee, but that risk
outweighs the benefits of an open government.
"That potential exists that somebody could abuse the opportunity to
avail themselves with this information," Murphy said. "But I err on
the side of making it available. ... If I want to get that information, I
can get it. They're my tax dollars. I want to know where they're
being spent. If there is an employee that's not doing their job with
my tax dollars, I want the right to know it."
[to top of second column]
As an advocate of last year's FOIA reforms, Illinois Attorney
General Lisa Madigan said she does not support the current
legislation because it takes away access to public information.
"We oppose any bill that weakens the Freedom of Information Act,
including this bill, " Madigan said in a statement.
The measure comes on the heels of a similar initiative exempting job
evaluations of Illinois teachers from FOIA requests, approved as
part of a legislative package to bolster the state's application for
federal education dollars in the Race to the Top program. Illinois
lost out on the federal money but will submit a second application.
Statehouse News; By ASHLEY BADGLEY]