News Story

Dispute Over $1,500 Charge for Phantom Copies from State is Resolved

State liquor agency drops charge for paper copies that were not needed

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) have resolved a dispute over a $1,550 charge the MLCC wanted to impose to make paper copies of electronic information requested by the Midland free market think tank under the Freedom of Information Act.

The resolution came after the Mackinac Center filed a lawsuit challenging charges for the equivalent of 6,000 pages of information that exists in electronic form but not on paper. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission agreed to reduce its fee to just the $50 labor cost for retrieving the information, which the Mackinac Center regards as reasonable.

“We’re pleased that we could come to an agreement with the Mackinac Center that makes the distribution and accessibility of this information more efficient for both parties,” said MLCC spokesman Jason Moon in an email.

This week is Sunshine Week. It’s an annual initiative that puts a focus on the importance of open government and access to public information.

“Keeping government transparent and accountable to taxpayers is a primary concern for us,” said Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox in a news release. “Taxpayers have a right to this public information. They should not be charged exorbitant amounts of money for documents that are rightfully theirs, nor should they be charged for virtual copies of public documents. The MLCC tried to put a roadblock in the way of the public getting information. Our lawsuit changed its mind.”

The dispute began Nov. 7, 2014. Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive requested data from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission on alcohol pricing. LaFaive was originally told by an agency staffer that the data could simply be copied to a flash drive. But when LaFaive submitted a FOIA request for the data, the agency responded with the demand for $1,550.22, which included $1,500 for copying 6,000 pages at 25 cents a page.


See also:

MSU's 'Fairly Ridiculous' FOIA Compliance

Court Orders City to Comply With FOIA