Community Ask: ‘I filed a complaint to the AG’s office. When will I hear back?’

With the ongoing investigation and majority of the Attorney General’s computer system offline, is there any way to know when the office will meet your requests?

Attorney General Kwame Raoul addresses the audience after swearing in as the state's newest head of the office at the Bank of Springfield Center on Jan. 14, 2019. (Vishesh Anand/Illinois Public Media)

If you’re familiar with the BGA’s What the Gov? series, you’ll soon notice some changes. We’ll continue to provide you information on the inner workings of your government but also amplify community narratives and voices through civic reporting and programming. We’re accepting, reading, and answering your questions, so please continue to share with us any curiosities or stories you have about the public officials and agencies elected to work for you. An anonymous BGA reader inspired this piece.

A Near North resident, who asked not to be named, said she is mentally exhausted and reached out to the Better Government Association after she filed a consumer complaint to the Illinois Attorney General’s office last October and did not get a response.

In April, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office reported a cybersecurity breach on its computer system, crippling access to many services like the handling of consumer complaints for the past four months. The hack of nearly 200 gigabytes of data also threatened to expose private information such as Social Security numbers, health information and other personal data.

(Cesar Calderon/BGA)

In an interview last month with the Chicago Tribune, which partnered with the Better Government Association on the story, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul provided no timeline for when the AG office’s computer systems will be fully back online.

The 73-year-old reader complained there were no updates on the status since the complaint was resubmitted in June on the advice of the AG’s office.

“I’m very disturbed about the entire issue,” the reader said on the phone. “It’s very unfortunate that I had to file from square one.”

The Attorney General’s broad range of services are supposed to help protect the civil, labor, disability and veterans rights of all Illinoisians.

The AG is still trying to resolve the hack. My colleague and investigative reporter Jared Rutecki, who is keeping an eye on the agency’s breach, said you might not get any answers about your specific case anytime soon.

So what can you do to best cope with the limitations of the breach?

The Attorney General Office’s Temporary Resolution

Since the link to where you can fill out a complaint online and submit it digitally to the office is no longer available on the Protecting Consumers section of the AG’s website, the only option is to print the downloadable PDF versions of the complaint forms, fill them out, and mail them to the corresponding address the agency provides.

Screenshot from the Illinois Attorney General's office website.

The Attorney General’s office has also set up a toll-free consumer complaints hotline to follow up and to ask any questions about your submission. The hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Pro Tip: When called around 8:30 a.m., a representative answered within two rings. The person who answered the phone also recommended calling before 3:50 p.m. because no one is usually available to answer after that. Remember, the hotline does not operate 24/7.

Chicago
Phone number: 1-800-386-5438

Springfield
Phone number: 1-800-243-0618

Carbondale
Phone number: 1-800-243-0607

For Spanish-first speakers:
Número de teléfono: 1-866-310-8398

When All Else Fails, Making a FOIA Request Can Be Another Way

Consumer complaints are public records. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can make requests to see related public records available. The BGA has an up-to-date Freedom of Information Act request guide for you. We provide links to the various government departments where requests can be sent, and a FOIA request letter template to get you started.

If you have questions specifically about the cybersecurity breach, Raoul’s office also has a separate hotline at 1-833-688-1949 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

They also provide a list of Frequently Asked Questions, though again, answers are limited as the breach is still under investigation.

Have you had any interactions with the Attorney General’s office since the April hack?
Share your experiences with us and let us know how the agency is working for you.

Investigative reporter and data coordinator Jared Rutecki contributed to this story.


 

Main image - "WILL Inaugration Coverage-9" (CC BY-NC 2.0) by illinoispublicradio