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City of Danville v. Madigan

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

April 25, 2018

THE CITY OF DANVILLE, a Municipal Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LISA MADIGAN, in Her Official Capacity as Attorney General, and KEVIN FLYNN, Defendant-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 16MR26 Honorable Brian T. Otwell, Judge Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and DeArmond concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HARRIS, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 This case arises from defendant Kevin Flynn's request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (the Act or FOIA) (5 ILCS 140/11(e) (West 2014)). In August 2015, Flynn requested documents from plaintiff, the City of Danville (the City), pertaining to the Danville Housing Task Force (Housing Task Force). The City denied Flynn's request, and he sought administrative review with defendant, the office of the Illinois Attorney General. The Attorney General subsequently issued a binding opinion, finding that the City improperly denied Flynn's request. The City then sought administrative review in Sangamon County circuit court, which affirmed the decision of the Attorney General.

         ¶ 2 The City appeals, arguing that (1) the Housing Task Force is not a "public body" subject to FOIA disclosure requirements and (2) the requested records do not constitute "public records" as defined by the Act. We affirm.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 In December 2014, the Housing Task Force convened to identify housing issues and trends in the city of Danville, Illinois. Eighteen community members were asked to participate in the Housing Task Force in addition to four City employees. The Housing Task Force met several times between December 2014 and July 2015. At these meetings, the Housing Task Force discussed the availability of public housing and the population loss that the City had experienced. The objective of the Housing Task Force was to develop strategic goals and objectives to improve housing conditions within the community.

         ¶ 5 In July 2015, the City's engineering and urban services department sent a memorandum to the City's council members. The memorandum summarized the Housing Task Force's findings and recommendations, stating, in pertinent part, as follows:

"With the assistance of city staff, we have extensively reviewed existing data associated with our neighborhoods, our public housing authority, and our city's policies. This document is not intended to be a comprehensive housing analysis; rather, it is a conglomeration of current issues, goals, and recommendations to alleviate said issues. *** We are now pleased to present to you our findings and recommendations for improvements."

         ¶ 6 On July 24, 2015, the Housing Task Force submitted its final report to the city

council, which was made available to the public. The introduction to the report stated as follows: "Together, [the] goals, objectives and recommendations are intended to comprise the City's housing strategy for the 2015-2020 planning period, and will guide daily decision-making by City officials and staff, while equipping citizens with the awareness of the housing programs that the City will be initiating to meet its overall housing goals."

         ¶ 7 On August 31, 2015, Kevin Flynn, a private citizen, requested documents from the City pursuant to the Act (5 ILCS 140/11(e) (West 2014)). Specifically, he requested the following:

"1. Please provide all meeting times, locations and meeting notices for the Danville Housing Task Force that completed ...

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