City of Greenville halted by FOIA redlight

In September 2012, the City of Greenville, Michigan made a FOIA request to Eureka Township to see public records related to pumps and a forced sewer main constructed around Baldwin Lake.  These documents were requested to verify that the Township was in compliance with the agreements that the city has on file.

The Supervisor of the Eureka Township, Laura Shears, responded to the request and stated that the request was too broad and did not specify a period of time.  Consequently, she asked for a ten day extension.  The Greenville City Manager, George Bosanic, revised the request and asked for all public records from January 1986 to September 2012 relating to pumps and a forced sewer main.

After the township again requested a ten day extension, Bosanic, attempting a new strategy, reached out to the township office and asked if he could view the public record documents at the Township Hall.  Shears informed him that inspecting these documents would cost him $10 an hour.  According to Michigan state law, fees can only be charged for the search and duplication of documents, not the inspection of them.

In early October, Bosanic was informed that the requested documents were ready at a cost of $400 for searching, compiling and copying, a fee which Bosanic has protested as excessive and a violation of the FOIA.

After the allotted time to process, complete, and deliver the FOIA request expired, Shears attempted to schedule a meeting with Bosanic to “discuss giving you the documents that you need.” Bosanic declined because meetings are not required under the FOIA.

The City of Greenville still has not received the documents and, in December, filed a lawsuit against the township in 8th Judicial Circuit Court, alleging township officials did not comply with the FOIA request.

This interaction highlights the disparity that sometimes exists between FOIA law and FOIA practice. How can lawsuits such as this be avoided in the future? 

Read more here.