Public Access Counselor
The Attorney General believes that an open, honest and accountable government, the cornerstone of a democracy, can be achieved only through the free and open exchange of information between government and the public. In Illinois, our most important transparency laws — the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA) - endeavor to open the workings of government to the public, shed light on government actions and, in the process, strengthen our democracy.
- FOIA is a state law that provides the public the right to access government documents and records. The premise behind FOIA is that the public has a right to know what the government is doing. The law provides that a person can request a copy of a public body’s records on a specific subject, and the public body must provide those records, unless there is an exemption in the statute that protects those records from disclosure.
- OMA is a different law that requires that meetings of public bodies be open to the public except in certain specific, limited situations where the law authorizes the public body to close a meeting. OMA also provides that the public must be given advance notice of the time, place, and subject matter of meetings of public bodies.
- The Public Access Counselor is an attorney in the Attorney General's Office who works to ensure compliance with FOIA and OMA. The Public Access Counselor oversees the Public Access Bureau in the Attorney General's Office, which includes several Assistant Attorneys General and professional support staff members working to respond to FOIA and OMA issues raised by the public and government officials. Under Illinois, the Public Access Counselor has several responsibilities:
- Resolve or mediate disputes between members of the public and public bodies concerning FOIA requests and compliance with OMA (Requests for Review)
- Issue binding opinions on FOIA and OMA in response to Requests for Review submitted by members of the public.
- Provide electronic training to all FOIA Officers, all elected and appointed officials, and persons designated by public bodies to receive OMA training.
- Provide educational presentations and materials to public bodies and to respond to informal inquiries from public bodies and the public.
To Explore our Resources Select from Below:
Members of public bodies, for example councils, boards, committees and other entities, can complete required training and access resources about compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
Individuals can learn more about their rights to obtain copies of public records from public bodies and to attend public meetings, and how the Illinois Attorney General’s Office can assist in resolving disputes with those laws.
Each year the Attorney General publishes a report summarizing the work of the Public Access Bureau and describing notable Binding Opinions and non-binding determination letters.