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City's failure to respond to newspaper violated state FOI Act

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City's failure to respond to newspaper violated state FOI Act 04/19/99 MICHIGAN--In late March, the state Court of Appeals in…

City’s failure to respond to newspaper violated state FOI Act

04/19/99

MICHIGAN–In late March, the state Court of Appeals in Lansing, a mid-level appellate court, unanimously held that the Troy Times could recover reasonable costs and attorney’s fees from the City of Troy after it failed to respond to a request for documents under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

According to the court, it was undisputed that the city failed to respond to the newspaper’s request for information concerning the city council’s evaluation of the city manager and by doing so violated the FOI Act. The court noted that the newspaper was wrongfully forced to file suit to obtain the documents, even though the requested documents were non-existent or unavailable to the city.

The court reversed the trial court’s holding that because the requested documents were not in the city’s possession, the city did not have to respond to the FOI request.

The City of Troy denied the Times’ request for a copy of the most recent job evaluation of the city manager, saying that it was an exempt personnel record under the Michigan FOI Act. The Times then renewed its request, and the city sent the newspaper documents which did not include a job evaluation. The newspaper made a third request, but the city did not respond.

The Times filed suit in state court in Pontiac, alleging a violation of the FOI Act. The newspaper asked the court to order the city to release job evaluation documents. In response, the city claimed the documents did not exist. The trial court denied the newspaper’s request for the summary release of documents, and the newspaper appealed. (C&G Publishing v. City of Troy; Media Counsel: Dawn Phillips Hertz and Lisa Mikalonis, Troy)