Community Ask: ‘I submitted a FOIA request to the attorney general’s office for the vacation days and requests of the AG’s staff and have not received any type of response.’

With the hack investigation of the attorney general’s office still ongoing, some people want to know how the breach in April affects staff work at the agency. But how do you properly seek transparency from the AG’s office about, well, itself?

Illinois Attorney General Office. (Jerry Nowicki/Capitol News Illinois)

If you're familiar with the BGA's What the Gov?, you'll notice it's changed! 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, whose question we've edited for clarity, inspired this piece.

We’re continuing to receive your questions and experiences about public records requests to the attorney general’s office, like this anonymous reader, who is still waiting to get a response from the AG’s office since learning about the breach.

(Cesar Calderon/BGA)

But what happens when you want to investigate the functions of the agency itself? The anonymous reader wants to know why it’s taking so long for the AG’s Public Access Bureau to respond to requests and wants to start tracking the operations of the attorney general’s employees.

In late July, we reported on the hack and shared some tips people can use to track their public records requests to the AG’s office while large parts of their computer system are still down.

Let’s address what we know.

Can you file a Freedom of Information Act request on the operations of the attorney general’s office through the AG’s office?

Yes. When seeking transparency from a public government agency through public records requests, there is usually a designated person or team to handle those within the agency.

And when it comes to keeping an eye on the AG’s office, “requests for public records created by or used by the Attorney General’s office should be directed to the Attorney General’s FOIA officer,” according to Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

You can send your requests to this email: FOIAofficer@ilag.gov.

Pro Tip: According to the Illinois FOIA, a FOIA officer must provide you with a response within 5 days. In that time, the FOIA officer can comply with your request, deny it or ask for another 5 days to more fully respond. No response from the public body is the same as a denial, and missing any of those deadlines means the agency is precluded from using many of the exemptions in the law to withhold records.

Find out more tips on FOIA with our comprehensive guide.

Did the Public Access Bureau shut down?

No, the Public Access Bureau is still functional.

According to Thompson, if you have any questions about Illinois’ open records and open meetings laws, you can email public.access@ilag.gov or call the PAC’s hotline: 1-877-299-FOIA (3642).

Ask questions about the public records requests you have made. You can also inquire about a request for review and appeals for your FOIA requests.

There is also a mailing address available. You can send your inquiries by mail to Sarah Pratt, counselor for the Public Access Bureau.

Public Access Counselor
Sarah Pratt
500 S. 2nd St.
Springfield, IL 62701

As of now, no one is saying when the investigation will end or when all systems will be fully back online. BGA data coordinator and investigative reporter Jared Rutecki is keeping a close eye on the activity from the AG’s office. So be sure to follow the Better Government Association for updates.

Have you had any interactions with the attorney general’s office since the April hack?

Let us know if you have any other questions. Share your experiences with us, and let us know how the agency is working for you. You can find our form below.

If you’re interested in learning more about the inner workings of Chicago and Illinois government through a future BGA Watchdog Training or community event, we want to hear from you.


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