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Sage Information Services v. Suhr

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

April 14, 2014

SAGE INFORMATION SERVICES and ROGER W. HURLBERT, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
BRENDA M. SUHR, In Her Official Capacity as Winnebago County Chief Deputy Supervisor of Assessments and Department Freedom of Information Act Officer, Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 12-MR-987. J. Edward Prochaska, Judge, Presiding.

SYLLABUS

When plaintiff requested electronic records of the current real property assessment record file pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, the trial court properly limited defendant to charging plaintiff only the cost of the electronic media that would hold the file as provided by section 6 of the Act, not the charge of five cents per parcel defendant set as a " reasonable fee" allowable by section 9-20 of the Property Tax Code for copying and providing records.

Joseph P. Bruscato, State's Attorney, of Rockford (Charlotte A. LeClercq and David J. Kurlinkus, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for appellant.

Donald M. Craven and Esther J. Seitz, both of Donald M. Craven, P.C., of Springfield, for appellees.

JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Jorgensen and Hudson concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 242

McLAREN, JUSTICE.

[¶1] Defendant, Brenda M. Suhr, Winnebago County chief deputy supervisor of assessments and department Freedom of Information Act officer, appeals a judgment that (1) ordered her to provide to plaintiffs, Sage Information Services and Roger W. Hurlbert, electronic records that plaintiffs requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq . (West 2012)) and (2) awarded plaintiffs attorney fees and costs. On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in basing the permissible charges for the records on section 6 of the FOIA (5 ILCS 140/6 (West 2012)) and not on section 9-20 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/9-20 (West 2012)). Defendant recognizes that the trial court's judgment was based on Sage Information Services v. Humm, 2012 IL App (5th) 110580, 977 N.E.2d 895, 364 Ill.Dec. 986, but she argues that Humm was decided wrongly. We affirm.

[¶2] By a letter dated October 12, 2012, plaintiffs requested from defendant " a copy, on CD or similar electronic media, of the current real property assessment record file for the entire county, together with an electronic copy of the sales file." Citing Humm, the request stated that, under section 6(a) of the FOIA (5 ILCS 140/6(a) (West 2012)), defendant could charge no more than the cost of the disc.

[¶3] On November 5, 2012, defendant responded that, to obtain the records, plaintiffs would have to pay $6,290.45 (five cents per parcel). Defendant relied on section 9-20 of the Property Tax Code, which allows a supervisor of assessments to charge a " reasonable fee" (35 ILCS 200/9-20 (West 2012)) for copying and providing records. She informed plaintiffs that section 9-20, and not the FOIA, governed the request.

[¶4] On December 12, 2012, plaintiffs filed their complaint to compel defendant to release the requested information in the requested form, at a charge of no more than the actual cost of production. The complaint also sought attorney fees and costs.

[¶5] Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment (see 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(a) (West 2012)). On June 12, 2012, the trial court granted the motion and entered a judgment requiring defendant to produce the requested records in electronic format within 30 days and awarding plaintiffs attorney fees and costs. The court explained that it was bound by Humm, under which section 6(a) of the FOIA ...


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