Oct. 8 2015 05:25 AM

Liberal group to accuse Schuette of charging outrageous FOIA fees to avoid transparency

Bill Schuette
Courtesy photo

The liberal political organization Progress Michigan is holding a media roundtable this morning to share evidence it obtained which they allege shows Attorney General Bill Schuette advised a state agency to charge $52,000 for emails under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Progress Michigan filed a FOIA months ago for communications related to a contractor on education. The request was filed with several agencies, including the Department of Treasury. Some of those departments handed over the requested communications at no cost, but not the Department of Treasury.

A second FOIA filed by the organization allegedly revealed the economic stonewalling strategy from the AG's office. Here's what the organization had to say about it's event this morning:

Progress Michigan will host a media roundtable to discuss documents showing that Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office is advising departments to charge exorbitant fees in response to Freedom of Information Act requests in an effort to deny Michiganders’ right to access public information.

The discovery comes on the heels of a Progress Michigan FOIA request to the Michigan Department of Treasury that sought $52,000 to fulfill a request for documents that was completed by other state entities free of charge and a recent estimate from the Attorney General’s office itself for nearly $20,000.

The use of outrageous fees by public bodies is not an uncommon tactic to prevent public access and accountability. Several years ago, while working on a report involving allegations that two well known MSU basketball players had been accused of raping a woman on campus, the university wanted several hundred dollars for the police report. I obtained the same report from the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office at no cost. And when I ultimately did get the FOIA from MSU, it was heavily redacted.

You can see my testimony about FOIA reforms from March of 2013 before the House Oversight Committee here.