Lawmakers exempt performance evaluations from FOIA

From press release

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—The performance evaluations of all public employees in Illinois are now exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after both the state House and the state Senate voted to override Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) amendatory veto of House Bill 5154. Quinn’s amendatory veto narrowed the exemption to law enforcement personnel.

The override was spearheaded by AFSCME and other major public employee unions as well as contract lobbyists hired by municipalities across the state. The Illinois Press Association (IPA) worked with the governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office and a coalition of nine other government groups to oppose the legislation.

The IPA still believes the evaluations of all public employees whose salaries are funded entirely by taxpayer dollars should be accessible to the public. The newly-enacted FOIA states, “The disclosure of information that bears on the public duties of public employees and officials shall not be considered an invasion of personal privacy.”

Josh Sharp, director of Government Relations for the IPA, said: “The law couldn’t be any clearer. Nothing bears more clearly on the public duties of public employees than their performance.”

Despite the veto override, the IPA expressed thanks to Quinn for his amendatory veto (AV) of the legislation, which greatly narrowed the scope of the original bill. In his veto message, the governor stated his commitment “to government that is ethical, transparent and accessible to the citizens of Illinois.”

Dennis DeRossett, executive director of the IPA, said “Governor Quinn has been an overwhelming supporter of government transparency and accountability, and our industry applauds that. Although his AV wasn’t perfect, it was far better than how the law stands now. We look forward to working with him and his administration on the preservation of FOIA and government transparency issues in the next four years.”

The IPA also expressed thanks to all of its members who helped lobby legislators against the override of the amendatory veto. Sharp added: “We recognize how hard a lot of our members worked to reach out to their legislators. Our members are perhaps our most effective lobbying tool, and we thank them for their hard work throughout this whole process. Make no mistake, the IPA and its members will continue to vehemently fight against any future changes to FOIA.”

The IPA is the largest state newspaper association in the U.S. with nearly 500 daily and weekly newspaper members.

From the Dec. 8-14, 2010 issue

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