News Local/State

IHSA Wins Illinois Supreme Court FOIA Case

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The IHSA does not have to turn over records via the Freedom of Information Act, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Illinois High School Association

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday the Illinois High School Association, which organizes sports tournaments between high schools, does not have to release internal records.

The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, is supposed to make sure anyone can get documents, memos — even emails — from a government body upon request.

But the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled the IHSA is NOT a government body. It wrote the IHSA’s sports events are not something public schools would otherwise be expected to do.

Matt Topik represents the Better Government Association which brought the suit. He says there’s a silver lining in his side’s loss — that a previous decision held that FOIA laws only applied to things governments have to carry out.

“We argued that that was too restrictive of a test because there are many things the government is authorized but not obligated to do, and the Supreme Court agreed.”

The Court wrote that FOIA requests can apply to functions of government — in other words, if governments outsources one of its responsibilities to a private entity, that is subject to FOIA.

“We were happy to see the Supreme Court adopted a much more liberal test for what constitutes a governmental function,” Topik said.

Topik says the decision could help the Better Government Association’s case to obtain records from a private organization that manages Chicago’s Navy Pier.​

The BGA advocates for government transparency. It wanted to get IHSA records that detailed sponsorship contracts with companies like Gatorade and Nike.