Thursday, March 3, 2016

OMA and FOIA guidance available in revised publication

School officials seeking guidance on the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) can now access this information in an updated publication produced by Klein, Thorpe, and Jenkins, Ltd. of Chicago. Letting the Sunshine in: School Board Meetings and Records is a revised booklet that combined two previous documents, School Board Meetings: Requirements under OMA and School Board Records: Requirements under FOIA.

The pamphlets were last updated in 2010 and a number of changes have been made to the FOIA and OMA statutes since that time. “Letting the Sunshine in” is current on both public access laws up to July 2015, with the new publication containing a summary of all the changes that have occurred since the last revision.

“One of the fastest ways for a school district to be challenged is to be sloppy with requirements in the Open Meetings Act or the Freedom of Information Act,” said Melinda Selbee, IASB general counsel. “As compliance is mandatory, having good resources is essential.”

Among the new OMA provisions are required training, posting timelines, and subject matter content that needs to be made public prior to a meeting. Changes to FOIA include the definitions of “recurrent requester” and “voluminous request,” allowing for a different procedure and additional time for a public body to respond. Also included are requirements for commercial records requests, monetary charges for burdensome requests, and exemptions for reports submitted to the School Security and Standards Task Force.

The revised publication provides a detailed overview of whom and what the Acts cover, requirements contained in each law, what public bodies need to do to remain in compliance with the statutes, and a brief question and answer section. Also included is an easy-to-use table of contents and a number of appendices that provide examples of forms, requests, and letters that may be useful to boards of education.

IASB would like to thank James Bartley and Gregory Smith, as well as the entire Klein, Thorpe and Jenkins, Ltd. of Chicago team for their pro-bono work in putting together this informative guide.