In Mancini Law Group, P.C. v. Schaumburg Police Department, an Illinois appellate court ruled that the Schaumburg Police Department did not violate FOIA when it redacted certain personal information about motorists from traffic accident reports. The FOIA requester asserted that the motorists’ home addresses, home phone numbers, and insurance policy numbers should not have been redacted because the Police Department provided unredacted reports to LexisNexis, a third party vendor of the state. As a result, the FOIA requester argued that the Police Department could not selectively disclose unredacted copies of the reports to LexisNexis and, therefore, waived its right to refuse to produce the unredacted copies in response to the FOIA request.
In upholding the lower court’s ruling that the Police Department’s production of the redacted reports complied with FOIA, the appellate court acknowledged that selective disclosure of a public record in one situation could preclude a later refusal to disclose the record in response to a FOIA request. However, the Illinois Vehicle Code requires the filing of motor-vehicle accident reports with the Secretary of State and the Department of Transportation. In this case, the Police Department disclosed the records to LexisNexis, the vendor the State of Illinois engaged to collect and maintain accident reports. Because LexisNexis is the State’s agent for those reporting requirements, the Police Department’s disclosure of accident reports to LexisNexis complied with a statutory requirement. There was no evidence that the Police Department furnished unredacted accident reports to LexisNexis aside from the mandatory reporting requirement. Thus, even though the Police Department gave LexisNexis unredacted copies of accident reports, the Police Department did not selectively disclose the accident reports to a third party for purposes of FOIA. Consequently, the Police Department did not waive its right to redact the home addresses, home phone numbers, and insurance policy numbers from the accident reports that were provided to the FOIA requester.
This case clarifies that public bodies do not necessarily waive their rights to argue that records are exempt from disclosure under FOIA merely by providing them to a third party, if the records are disclosed pursuant to a statutory requirement.
For questions about this case and FOIA, please contact an attorney in our Corporate/Board Governance practice group.