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Frequently Asked FOIA Questions

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What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) makes government more transparent to the citizens of Illinois by guaranteeing access to government records in the form in which they are maintained.  Generally, the Illinois FOIA provides access to government information while protecting the legitimate interests of government and the privacy rights of citizens.

New Illinois Legislation that began January 1, 2010 strengthens the State's FOIA law, making it even easier for individual citizens to gain access to government information. 

How do I submit a request under FOIA?

All Freedom of Information requests submitted to City of Chicago departments must include the following information:

   1. The name, mailing address and daytime phone number of the requestor;

   2. A description of the records that are being requested.

Individual City of Chicago departments may have a prepared form for submitting FOIA requests; such forms are available on the department’s website.  You are encouraged to use the form, but are not required to do so.You may email a department with the required information for the request.  Click here for the list of department’s email contacts for submission of a FOIA request. In each City of Chicago department, one employee manages all FOIA requests for that department.  If you do not see a contact listed on a department’s webpage, call the department’s general line and ask for the employee who handles FOIA requests.

Click here for contact information for all City of Chicago Department FOIA Requests 

How will I receive the documents I requested?

A City department generally satisfies FOIA requests with photocopies of the original documents or making the documents available for review.  

Do I have to pay for a FOIA request?

City departments and sister agencies cannot charge for the first 50 pages of black and white, letter or legal sized photocopies.  For every page after the first 50, the City may charge 15 cents per black and white, letter or legal sized copy.  The City cannot charge for time spent by employees to compile the requested information and respond to the FOIA request.  

What information is available under FOIA?

Under the new Illinois FOIA, there is a “presumption of transparency,” meaning that government records and documents are presumed to be open to inspection unless the government can prove otherwise.  Some government records containing personal information, such as social security numbers, will not be released to the general public.  In some instances, private information may be redacted from government records, allowing the records to be released under FOIA. 

Each City department keeps a list of the records and files that it maintains; click here for the complete list.  Please note, however, that not all of the documents maintained by a department may be accessible through FOIA.  

When can I expect a response to my request?

After you submit a FOIA request, the City has five days in which to provide an initial response to the requestor. 

What if I cannot find what I am looking for?

If you are not able to find the information you are looking for online, please contact the FOIA officer at the department that maintains the information you are seeking.