Franklin Park starts online system for information requests
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:48AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Information requests have gone electronic in Franklin Park.
The village has a new system in place for the public to use the Freedom of Information Act, often called FOIA.
Under the act, people can request many types of records from a government body. There is a federal information law and many similar state laws governing access to and the release of such information.
In Illinois, if someone isn’t happy with the response of a government body to an information request, they can contact the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
In the past, people could stop by village hall or fax in a FOIA request. People can still do that, but as of March 1, people also have the option of sending in a request by the village website.
“When this system went into existence, we went from the stone age to the current century,” Village Clerk Tommy Thomson said.
The system cost $1,500 to set up and costs the village $1,500 a year. Thomson estimates the village will break even in a year due to the decrease in staff time and the decreased use of paper.
“It’s a quicker turnaround in the department getting it back,” Thomson said.
Each information request is electronically routed to the appropriate department. On the third, fourth and fifth days, the system sends out an electronic reminder to both the clerk’s office and the village employee responsible for responding.
“The reporting tools are kind of nice,” Thomson said. “It can count staff time, number of requests.”
The electronic information-request system can be found on the left side of the clerk’s page on the village website: www.villageoffranklinpark.com.
Step one is to give your e-mail address and make up a password. You’re also required to give your name and city (which is available to the public) and phone number (which is not).
After that, you can choose from 14 categories of records. There’s also a category named “other/general.”
Describe the documents you are looking for. Be clear and go into some detail.
One you click on “submit,” you should get an automated e-mail back almost instantly from the village clerk’s office. The e-mail acknowledges the request, offers some background on what can and can’t be requested and says the village will respond in five days.
Sometimes, though, that first response says only that it will take longer to gather the requested information.
You can look online to see the date the request was made, the status of the request and the date it was updated. The public, not just the requestor, may view that information as well as the request.
Between March 1 and March 19, there were 34 requests. Those include people seeking liens and inspection reports on houses for sale, a non-profit seeking information on tax increment financing districts, building permits over $400,000 issued over a four-month period, red light video footage of a car accident, the current police union contract and offers on the former Unilever property that was bought by the village for its new police station.