Despite their well lauded effort last year in creating a new FOIA law, the Illinois Legislature seems to feel that their time in the sunshine needs to come to an end. This past week, the senate passed just another of many roll backs to their new FOIA law. House Bill 5154 would create an exemption for all public employee personal evaluations. The bill, endorsed by a number of employee unions, but heavily criticized by the FOIA community passed the Senate 45-9 and the House 70-39. This exemption rode on the heels of a similar exemption, already passed this year, which protected teacher’s performance evaluations from public scrutiny. While public employees should be granted some degree of privacy, these performance evaluations should not be protected and represent one of the most essential records for the maintenance of democracy. If the government is the servant of the people, and public employees are not only paid by public dollars but represent the main manner of interaction between the people and the government, then shouldn’t the record of how well they perform that function be available to the public and open to criticism and review. The bill still awaits a signature by the governor and hopefully the governor will consider the interests of the public and not his personal staff and veto the bill. This would also send a strong message to the Legislature that clouding over Illinois’ newly discovered sunshine is in no one’s best interest.
To read more about the various roll backs that are being considered or have passed, see our article, Illinois Legislature works to roll back new FOIA laws