Determination: housing authority must release complaint against its employee


The Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor (PAC) has informed the local housing authority that it must release a sexual harassment complaint against one of its employees.

Last winter, it came to my attention that a sexual harassment complaint against an employee of the Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb (HACD) had been sent to HACD board members. I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for complaints against this employee but it was denied. I then asked for a review of the denial, which the PAC accepted. The PAC issued a determination earlier this month that the denial was improper and HACD must release the requested information.

HACD received the letter of determination at the same time I did — June 8 — but still hasn’t released the complaint.

While we’re waiting, let’s review handling of records under Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it pertains to complaints against public employees. The rules are important in their own right and not all that complicated once broken down.

There are up to four phases involved in resolving complaints against public employees that involve their conduct during the course of their public duties.

  1. Submission of allegations.
  2. The investigation process.
  3. Adjudication of evidence collected during investigation.
  4. Final conclusions and outcomes.

Each phase generates documentation, but of the four, only records of adjudication can be completely withheld from the public under FOIA. Other records must be released upon request, except the public body redacts personally identifiable information to protect the identities of the complainant and any witnesses.

The determination letter appears below.