Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

A Citizen’s Guide to Using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act

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Open government is key to a democracy and citizen participation in it.

In the wake of scandal involving former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois Legislature and the new
governor, Patrick Quinn, rewrote the Illinois Freedom of Information Act in 2009. Many of those
changes took effect in 2010. Debate over some of them continues today. To help citizens, govern-
ment officials and journalists understand and use this new law – and the Open Meetings Act - the
Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is pleased to publish “A
Citizen’s Guide to Using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act” by former veteran Illinois political
reporter Adriana Colindres.

The Institute would like to thank several experts for their help in preparing this guide, including Illi-
nois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for the help of her office; William Freivogel, director of the School
of Journalism at SIU; and Josh Sharp, director of government relations for the Illinois Press Associa-

This is a guidebook. It should not be considered a substitute for sound legal advice from your attor-

Finally, it is important that supporters of open government remain vigilant in protecting the pub-
lic’s right to know information, however embarrassing and uncomfortable it may be. Many interest
groups and individuals are constantly chipping away at laws seeking to protect openness in an effort
to carve out exemptions that would legalize secrecy for themselves or their groups. As we have seen
too often in Illinois, secrecy in government can be a breeding ground for corruption in government
or a cover for embarrassing or incompetent behavior by government officials. Sunshine is a good

David Yepsen
Director, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

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The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
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Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Carbondale, IL 62901 - Mailcode: 4429
• Phone: 618.453.4009 • Fax: 618.453.7800