Michigan Press Association and Mackinac Center Joint Statement on Proposal 2 and the Freedom of Information Act
‘Chilling effects on citizens’ right to know’
For Immediate Release
Monday, Oct. 22, 2012
Michael D. LaFaive, Director of Fiscal Policy
Ted O'Neil, Media Relations Manager
MIDLAND—The Michigan Press Association and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy today issued a joint statement to members of the media, legislators and the public warning about the implications that Proposal 2 would have on government transparency.
If passed with a “yes” vote, these organizations argue, stipulations in government collective bargaining agreements would trump the Freedom of Information Act, among other laws. The Freedom of Information Act guarantees that public documents remain available to public scrutiny, subject to some limitations.
“The Michigan Press Association fights hard to ensure the government maintains open access to information, specifically as it involves possible criminal behavior of government employees,” said Jim Young, publisher of Oceana’s Herald-Journal and MPA president.
Both the MPA and Mackinac Center point to a collective bargaining agreement that governs Bay City Public Schools. The Center discovered and publicized that the CBA mandates that a teacher could be caught drunk five times or actually sell drugs to students two times before they are fired.
“If Proposal 2 is adopted it will become harder to discover such outrageous mandates because union officials could conceivably negotiate into future agreements a prohibition on the release of the CBA itself,” said Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center.
Even with the Freedom of Information Act in place, various units of government work to thwart requests for information that may be useful to the public. Access to emails written on public school computers led to a court case in which the Mackinac Center and MPA filed a joint amicus brief at the Michigan Supreme Court. Recently, MPA member Heritage News was denied a FOIA request by the state for a list of principals deemed “ineffective” on the grounds that the request was for information “of a personal nature.”
The Mackinac Center has also crossed swords with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., universities, the Michigan State Police and other conventional public school districts over information it believes should be public.
“Even with FOIA in effect, governments can make it hard to report vital news that affects Michigan citizens directly,” Young said. “Proposal 2 offers a change to the constitution that could have chilling effects on citizens’ right to know.”