On March 29, the Mackinac Center filed a public records request to the city of Highland Park for the salary and personnel records for Lieutenant James McMahon. Lt. McMahon has been accused of being involved in a towing and bribery scam, in which vehicles were allegedly seized unlawfully, and police officers were allegedly bribed to create false reports to justify the seizures. This scam has been covered extensively in the media, and lawsuits have been filed against Lt. McMahon. Because of these accusations, a thorough understanding of Lt. McMahon's performance and disciplinary history is a matter of significant public interest.
The city denied the Mackinac Center's request in full on April 6, wrongfully citing a privacy exemption. Michigan Courts have clearly determined that salary information is subject to public disclosure, and while law enforcement personnel records can be exempt, the city must demonstrate that disclosure of the records would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation then stepped in and filed suit. Given that the records are about an officer who was alleged to be corrupt, and who has been the subject of media attention, the public interest in the records clearly outweighs any possible invasion of privacy. Furthermore, even if the privacy exemption does apply to certain portions of the records, it's the city's duty to redact only that information and provide the rest. The city of Highland Park, however, failed to do so.