press release


News from Progress Michigan

March 14, 2016

Contact: Hugh Madden, 734-250-2070,

SUNSHINE WEEK: State’s Broken FOIA Law Needs to be Fixed

Worst abuses show need for more accountability and transparency

LANSING — At the beginning of Sunshine Week, Progress Michigan is highlighting the worst examples of our state’s broken Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law to show the need for real reforms to give the people of Michigan the tools they need to hold our elected officials accountable and ensure transparency.

“These examples are just a small slice of the issues that Michiganders face when attempting to use FOIA law to hold elected officials and other state officers accountable,” said Hugh Madden, communications director of Progress Michigan. “Progress Michigan will continue to use our existing laws to shine a light on how our government operates and we will continue to call for needed reforms to end the problems with the current law.”

The worst examples from the past year are below:

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office urged a “fee approach”

In October, documents obtained by Progress Michigan revealed that Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office advised state departments to use a “fee approach” to deny access to records requests by charging exorbitant fees for easily searchable documents. (More here)

Attorney General attempted to deny FOIA with unreasonable charges

In August, Progress Michigan appealed a cost estimate from the Office of the Attorney General regarding a FOIA request. The FOIA sought communications between certain employees of the Attorney General and known lobbyists. In response, the Attorney General is demanding $19,313.78 in fees to simply search for the records requested. (More here)

GOP attempted to exempt pipeline safety from FOIA laws

In May, House Republicans introduced a bill that will exempt pipeline safety inquiries from FOIA law. (More here)

Treasury attempted to charge $52,000 for FOIA

The Department of Treasury attempted to charge Progress Michigan nearly $52,000 for a FOIA request despite the fact that other departments didn’t charge a fee for the same request. (More here)

Progress Michigan continues to fight for accountability and transparency but the state continues to drag its feet. A FOIA request filed in November and paid for on December 17th is still being processed by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) despite months of time to process. The request is for emails, including personal emails, between former Snyder spokesperson Sara Wurfel and her husband Brad Wurfel, the former DEQ communications director who resigned in disgrace over his handling of the Flint Water Crisis.

“This is just one more example of why we need real FOIA reform that truly allows us to hold our elected officials accountable,”Madden continued. “It’s time for Governor Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to stop abusing FOIA and listen to the calls for real transparency and accountability.”


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