536 N.E.2d 827, 180 Ill. App. 3d 1084, 129 Ill. Dec. 777 1989.IL.324
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Roger J. Kiley, Jr., Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court. McNAMARA and WHITE, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE FREEMAN
Plaintiff, Irving Margolis, filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus, declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue (hereinafter collectively defendant), to disclose to plaintiff the business names and addresses of applicants for certificates of registration to engage in retail sales in Cook County, as required under section 2a of the Retailers' Occupation Tax Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 120, par. 441a). Defendant had denied the request for that information on the ground that it was exempt from disclosure under section 7(b)(iv) of the Freedom of Information Act (Illinois FOIA) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 116, par. 206). The trial court denied defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint and granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Defendant appeals only the grant of plaintiff's motion.
In his request for the subject information, plaintiff expressed an interest in conducting a pilot study of "the economic impact of various factors" upon the rate of new business formation in Cook County, divided by zip codes. Plaintiff proposed to measure the rate by applications for certificates of registration. Plaintiff requested that the information be updated on a weekly basis. Finally, plaintiff opined that the information learned from the study would be of benefit to the general public if he and those involved with him were able "to find valid correlations between the variable factors."
At the hearing on defendant's motion to dismiss and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, the trial court determined that the same question controlled both motions. That issue was whether the names and addresses of applicants for certificates of registration fell within the exemptions to the obligation to disclose information under the Illinois FOIA provided in sections 7(b)(iii) and (b)(iv). The court determined that the requested information did not fall within either of those exemptions and accordingly denied defendant's motion and granted plaintiff's.
The issue before us is thus whether the names and addresses of applicants for certificates of registration from defendant are either "personal information" or "information" as those terms are used in section 7 of the Illinois FOIA, the relevant portions of which provide:
"The following shall be exempt from inspection and copying:
(b) [information] which, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless such disclosure is consented to in writing by the individual subjects of such information. . . .
Information exempted under this subsection (b) shall include but is not limited to:
(iii) files and personal information maintained with respect to any applicant, registrant or licensee by any public body cooperating with or engaged in professional or occupational registration, licensure or discipline;
Our research revealed no Illinois cases construing the terms "personal information" or "information" as used in section 7. Substantially the same philosophy of full disclosure with limited exceptions undergirds both the Federal Freedom of Information Act (Federal FOIA) (5 U.S.C. 552 (1982)) and the Illinois FOIA. (Compare Department of Air Force v. Rose (1976), 425 U.S. 352, 360-61, 48 L. Ed. 2d 11, 21, 96 S. Ct. 1592, 1599, with Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 116, pars. 201, 207.) Moreover, section 552(b)(6) of the Federal FOIA is comparable in purpose and language to section 7 of the Illinois FOIA. As such, decisions construing the Federal FOIA, while not controlling, are relevant and helpful precedents in construing the Illinois FOIA. See Old Ben Coal Co. v. Human Rights Comm'n (1986), 150 Ill. App. 3d 304, 501 N.E.2d 920.
Section 552(b)(6) exempts from disclosure "personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) (1982).) This exemption, commonly referred to as exemption 6, was intended by Congress to protect individuals from the injury and embarrassment that could result "from the unnecessary disclosure of personal information." (United States Department of State v. Washington Post Co. (1982), 456 U.S. 595, 599, 72 L. Ed. 2d 358, 363, 102 S. Ct. 1957, 1960.) The Supreme Court in Washington Post Co. did not explicitly define the "personal information" which exemption 6 was intended to protect. However, we believe it implicitly did so in also noting that exemption 6 ...