News Story

Regular People Get In Trouble For Doing This, But Government Skates

They cash the records request check but then don’t deliver the records

On July 21, the state of Michigan cashed a check from a nonprofit organization for documents it had requested – and then failed to deliver the documents.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy submitted a Freedom of Information request June 29 as part of its investigation of Michigan State Police employees enrolled in a pension-boosting deferred retirement plan. State officials responded in a July 6 letter requiring the Center to submit a routine good-faith payment of $119.34 to cover the cost of retrieving and copying the requested information. The law states municipalities have up to 15 business days to respond to an open records request but doesn't give a deadline to releasing the information.

The Mackinac Center sent a check for that amount, which was cashed July 21. The state of Michigan stated July 31 that the final payment of $119.34 was required to get the information.

This past spring, the state waited nearly two months before fulfilling another Mackinac Center document request. The Mackinac Center asked for documents about the school pension system on May 26, and on June 19, the state responded that it would cost $219 to provide them.

The Mackinac Center sent a check, and the state acknowledged receiving it June 20. But it didn’t release the information until July 18.

Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act does not impose a deadline on when a unit of government must release information that answers a records request. The law says only that the government or agency must “respond” within five days. The government can be granted an additional 10 day extension if requested.