FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Progress Michigan
April 9, 2015
Treasury Requests $52K to Fulfill Progress Michigan FOIA Request
Public information given for free by other departments comes with huge price tag
LANSING — Progress Michigan is calling on the Snyder administration to waive onerous fees related to a Freedom of Information Act request and push for logical changes to the state’s public records laws after the organization was given a $52,000 estimate by the Department of Treasury for public information regarding education policy — information that was provided by other departments free of charge.
“This speaks to just how broken our FOIA laws are in this state,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Being charged more than most people make in a year to dig up some emails is hardly the transparent government that Gov. Snyder promised the people of Michigan.”
Progress Michigan sent a FOIA request to the Department of Treasury on March 10, 2015 asking for “all communications with Paul Pastorek, education advisor.”
The exact same FOIA request was sent to the Education Achievement Authority and the Michigan Department of Education, both of which responded by sending the records free of charge.
On April 3, the Treasury responded that it would cost $52,108.72 in staff time alone to produce the documents. That price tag did not include copying or mailing costs.
Progress Michigan sought the public emails because little is known about Pastorek, an out-of-state charter school advocate that was brought in by the Snyder administration to help determine education policy for the state’s struggling urban districts.
“This is a situation where we know a non-public employee is working behind closed doors to assist in shaping public education policy in our state and we’re simply interested in getting the information about what’s going on to the public,” Scott continued.
Progress Michigan has made similar requests in the past that have brought to light troubling facts about the way the state is being run. The numerous problems with the state’s Aramark contract are a prime example of that. Without reasonable access to public records through FOIA, Progress Michigan would have never discovered the $98,000 cancelled fine or the numerous food service problems related to the out-of-state corporation.
In Michigan, the time for more public scrutiny related to education policy couldn’t come at a more dire time. Reports show the state is spending $1 billion in funding on unaccountable charter schools and Gov. Snyder has pulled education reform out from under the Michigan Department of Education and placed it in the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Pastorek is operating behind the scenes, which is reminiscent of Snyder’s Skunk Works scandal, and should be a concern to all Michiganders.
“The public has a right to know what is going on when it comes to these critical decisions around education policy,” Scott continued. “If the Snyder administration is serious about transparency — like the Governor contends — then we expect these fees to be waived immediately and for Gov. Snyder to take bold action to revamp our state’s FOIA laws.”