FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Progress Michigan
October 29, 2014
Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574, firstname.lastname@example.org
MDOC Stalling FOIA Request Until After November Election
Michigan voters deserve to know information about Aramark, Ed Buss
LANSING — Today, Progress Michigan called out the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Snyder administration for deliberately stalling the release of documents through a Freedom of Information Act request until after the election.
Progress Michigan received the following email (with emphasis added) from Andrew Phelps, the assistant FOIA coordinator at MDOC on Wednesday afternoon:
I got your message regarding the FOIA request with our Department. Unfortunately, your request is still processing and will not be available for pick up today. Our staff is currently searching through records to pull together all of the responsive documents. At this point, my best guess, after speaking just after lunch with our contract monitoring area, is late next week. I will keep you in the loop as to our status, and I can assure you that the Department is moving as expeditiously as possible to complete the processing. Thank you for your patience as we pull this together.
The timeline of the FOIA request — and the MDOC information that Progress Michigan has revealed in the past — clearly shows that the department is trying to hide information from the public. In a September FOIA request, Progress Michigan discovered that a $98,000 fine levied against Aramark had been cancelled by MDOC after Gov. Snyder’s office became involved. It was through that same FOIA request that Progress Michigan discovered that MDOC had illegally redacted certain portions of emails.
On September 12th Progress Michigan sent a FOIA request asking for the following documents and internal emails from MDOC:
-Copies of any and all records pertaining to the hiring of Ed Buss
-Communications between the Department and Ed Buss
-Any and all records pertaining to fines related to the state’s contract with Aramark
-Communications between Aramark officials and Department officials
-Any departmental materials and emails that refer to “Aramark” from March 1 through the current date
The Department received the FOIA request on September 15th. On September 22nd, they requested a 10-business day extension, which expired October 6th.
Progress Michigan delivered its “good faith” deposit of $322.10 after being told how many work hours were needed and the cost of printing. That payment was received on October 9th by the department. On October 15th, Progress Michigan began reaching out to MDOC for fulfillment of the FOIA request and was told by the assistant FOIA coordinator that it would take “just a few more days” to process the documents. Over the next two weeks, Progress Michigan continued to call MDOC on six separate occasions and continued to get the same response of “just a few more days.”
“The department has had at least 120 business hours to do a job that they said would only take five,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “At this point, one has to ask, what does the Snyder administration have to hide about this contract and why don’t they want voters to have this information until after the election?”
Documents included with this release are the original FOIA request, the 10-day extension, the departmental cost estimate, and the receipt of payment.