News Release: Michigan Department of State Police Misses Two FOIA Deadlines, Including One Related to $6.9 Million Fee for Earlier Request
Pattern violates law and sends message that "freedom of information is not all that free"
For Immediate Release
Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009
Contact: Kathy Hoekstra
MIDLAND - The Michigan Department of State Police has missed the legal deadlines to respond to two Freedom of Information Act requests filed by Kathy Hoekstra, Mackinac Center for Public Policy communications specialist, following an earlier State Police FOIA response that indicated it would cost nearly $7 million to get information regarding federal homeland security grants. The fee may be a national record for a FOIA request, according to SunshineReview.org, a Web site that tracks government transparency.
One request, which asked for information about how the Department of State Police came up with the $6.9 million fee, had a legally required deadline of Dec. 15. Hoekstra received a response Dec. 17, saying that her request has been partially granted and it would cost $99.49 to process. The department also responded to the other request, which sought information about an Inspector General's audit of homeland security grants, but not until five days after the deadline had passed. The fee for this information, according to the State Police Department, would be more than $14,000.
"I originally sought these documents based on an Office of Inspector General report that raised concerns about Michigan's handling of homeland security money from 2002 to 2004," said Hoekstra. "The report suggested that millions of dollars in goods purchased with homeland security money could not be accounted for or even located. The inability of the State Police Department, which administers these funds, to provide this information in a timely or reasonable manner does not instill confidence."
In the initial FOIA request, Hoekstra asked for all spending reports and other documentation related to Michigan's homeland security grant money from 2002 to the present. State police FOIA personnel calculated that the information would add up to 2,045,783 pages, cost $0.36 per page to copy and $6,139,822.02 for "search, examination and deletion" of documents.
"Exorbitant fees and missed deadlines undermine the law and create a perception of obstruction," said Hoekstra. "Access to these public records is vital to guard against abuses of public power and the public purse. Michigan residents lose when freedom of information is not all that free."