Here’s an interesting press release date November 25, 2020, concerning a settlement between the Michigan AG’s office and Progress Michigan in a FOIA lawsuit. The settlement included partial payment of attorneys’ fees to Progress Michigan. (Unclear why the payment is only of part of the attorneys’ fees.)
AG Nessel states that she has placed an emphasis on openness in government, including greater transparency within her own department and other governmental offices. As a result of this lawsuit, Michigan revised its FOIA procedures to reflect “best practices.” “The State serves the people of Michigan, and they deserve to know what we are doing and how we are doing it.”
Maybe AG Nessel can make sure the Michigan State Police and other law enforcement agencies get the memo. As we have discussed many times, the MSP charged my family over $11,000 for some 3400 pages in response to a FOIA request. The response contained many blank pages, blanket and unexplained redactions. The response also contained many multiple copies of documents concerning John Hastings, who their intrepid employee being paid some $40 an hour to compile, redact and copy, provided with coversheets using the name “John Hastings” numerous times throughout. So much for redactions.
Although I have posted the MSP FOIA response online, I recently had another set (minus the 25 or so pages that went missing from the original response as people rifled through the documents over the years), copied. It cost $234 and that included a couple hundred pages of documents from other entities concerning this case.
The entire MSP response fit in one file box. Here is a photo of the $11,000 box.
This is a letter the MSP sent to Helen Dagner concerning her FOIA request in April 2007. The MSP estimates the fee to be $799,744.89. At least we have some idea from Ms. Ortiz’s letter of what the MSP has in the OCCK case as of that date.
On the other hand, here is a letter from Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper to reporter Kevin Dietz dated June 22, 2012. Cooper would not hand over any documents in response to my Dad’s FOIA request to that office and in fact litigation ensued that went all the way to the appellate court. He received no records from that office. However, once Cooper’s dick was in the wringer when it was determined that documents in People v. Busch were handed over to Dietz ($48.40), the office had to provide them to my Dad as well.
An editorial in the Traverse City Record-Eagle stated: “FOIA isn’t about feelings. It’s not about fear and vindictiveness. It isn’t judgy. It isn’t critical.”
You could have fooled me.
Right now, today, law enforcement agencies are stonewalling FOIA responses that relate to this case and to other child sex abuse cases in Michigan. If any meaningful change is to come out of the festering case that is the OCCK investigation, these abuses must be called out and corrected. Retention schedules that are bullshit, missing documents/files, flooded storage facilities, prohibitive charges, unnecessary delay–it all has to stop. Use this case as a prime example. As a reader with an interest in FOIA laws wrote me, “[f]inding justice should not be this continuously difficult.”
This reader suggested changes to FOIA laws allowing an exemption to immediate family members of crime victims to have fees waived by a judge or covered by the Michigan Division of Victims Services. The reader continued:
Governments should not be in the business of hiding information. And it shouldn’t be seen as a chore or burden for law enforcement to go find a file. Why any open or unsolved murder in Birmingham is left to waste in a warehouse filing cabinet is frustrating. I know why the police want to move on from what they can’t solve, but the rest of us shouldn’t. To think that the system that protected the Busch family when they flashed some cash would be the same system that would happily go about bankrupting a family paying for information on the truth is disappointing.