WEBSITE (32/32 points): The city of Moline's website, moline.il.us, has a user-friendly format with easy links to its various departments, services, employment applications, online bill payments, recreation and more.
Agendas and minutes of city council and committee-of-the-whole meetings date back to January 2012 and are easily accessed. All agendas include packets. Photos of the elected city officials are included, along with their phone numbers and email addresses. A staff directory includes telephone numbers and email links for all departments and for many city employees.
One feature unique to Moline is its fairly lengthy online biographies of its council members.
City news alerts frequently are posted on the homepage.
MEETINGS (12/25 points): The Times submitted a public records request, asking for the number of council meetings and closed-door sessions held in the past five years. The request was granted in part and denied in part, and contained the explanation, "The city is not required to copy a public record that is published on the public body's website."
The response detailed how to find agendas and minutes on the website, which a reporter then hand counted. From 2012 to 2016, the council had 202 council meetings. To determine how many meetings went into executive session, meeting minutes had to be searched. Of the 41 meetings we checked (all the 2016 meetings and meetings through early February 2017), 21 meetings included closed sessions, which is more than half.
BUDGET/FINANCIALS (27/35): Moline posts city budgets dating back to 2012, and they are easy to find. The 2017 budget includes the financials as well as performance measures for different city departments, including the mayor and the city administrator, a position that currently is vacant.
The budget contains charts but no graphs and items that resemble an executive summary, although not labeled as such. While many municipal governments list their budgets in finance department areas, Moline lists its budgets under "government" and "finance" on its website.
In our FOIA request, we asked for expense reports for the week of Oct. 10-14, 2016, and we received 54 pages of records.
RECORDS (10/10 points): The Times filed a Freedom of Information request using the FOIA officer's email, which is clearly available on the website. We did not receive a reply confirming our request had been received.
By Illinois law, the city has five working days to answer our request. On the seventh day, we called the FOIA officer directly at the number provided on the city's form, because we had not received an answer. It turned out that the city had sent its email reply on the final day it was due.
However, due to the size of the file, it did not get through to the Times reporter's email. After our call, the FOIA officer resized the electronic file and resent it the same day.
As part of our request, we asked for minutes of the past five executive sessions and were denied. Citing the Open Meetings Act, the city said "minutes of meetings closed to the public are exempt from disclosure until the public body makes the minutes available to the public."
The city waived fees for its information as it was requested in the public's interest.
Routine fees are outlined on the online FOIA form online. Records fewer than 50 pages will be mailed free or can be picked up at city hall.