In 1976, following the Watergate scandal, Michigan passed the Freedom of Information Act, which gives citizens the right to access to public records. Courts have said that FOIA’s goal was “to establish a philosophy of full disclosure by public agencies and to deter efforts of agency officials to prevent disclosure of mistakes and irregularities committed by them or the agency and to prevent needless denials of information.”
Regardless of this intent to provide broad disclosure of public records, Proposal 2 would empower government employers and government employees to reach a collective bargaining agreement that would shield records like employee misconduct files from FOIA discovery. One union has already shown hostility to FOIA. In 2007, the Howell Education Association successfully blocked FOIA requests for emails sent on the Howell school district’s computer system by teachers serving as union officials. The Howell Board of Education and the Howell Education Association also approved a “memorandum of understanding” that called for a “go-slow” approach to FOIA requests in order to facilitate legal challenges:
[I]t is likely that an employee or representative union may seek to restrain or limit release of information through the legal system. For this reason, the school district will not disclose personnel documents requested under FOIA until the full five business-day period provided under current law has elapsed.
If Proposal 2 were to pass, further contractual challenges to FOIA seem likely. Inevitably, they would override a state law meant to promote citizen oversight of government.