FOIAs, FOIAs, FOIAs

As of August, I've personally dealt with one hundred and forty-three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Sometimes they come in waves, sometimes there's a steady two to three a week, and sometimes I won't receive one at all for an entire week. They vary in complexity from the mundane (a request of a bid tabulation sheet), to an environmental scan (which includes multi-departmental coordination and an ask for an extension). Being the primary Village FOIA Officer also comes with its set of challenges.

Information is sometimes sensitive. This is why this function requires discretion, professionalism and a hand ready for redaction. But it also requires a sternness I wasn't comfortable with until about fifty FOIAs into the year. There are commercial requestors whose sole job is to mine municipalities for information in order to advance their business. There are residential requestors whose sole job may be to use the FOIA Act as a sword (or thorn) by tactics like inundation or constant lobs to the Attorney General's Office. Knowing FOIA law well helps in these instances tremendously.

I was happy to reinvent the FOIA process in Itasca. It was fragmented, siloed, and lacked tracking and measuring. With the Village Attorney, I presented in front of staff the new system (which included utilizing the website's form builder as the central FOIA hub) and the general guidelines of FOIA law and what staff needs to do in certain situations. 

As the face of Itasca FOIA, I'm responsible for responding to each and every request. Luckily, most requestors are cordial and professional. But if there's anything this function has taught me this past year, there is opportunity for the opposite.