Michigan has been a hotbed of interesting FOIA developments in recent weeks. I’ll soon be doing a story about a judge’s suppression of Ben Hansen’s FOIA work.
In an entirely different case, the Detroit News editorializes this morning that If taxpayers pay for it, they should see it.
They’re talking about an open records case that involves three parties: the Howell School District (a public school district), the Michigan Education Association (the MEA, the state’s largest teacher’s union), and Chet Zarko, a citizen FOIAer.
Zarko filed an open records request with the Howell School District some months ago. He was asking for copies of emails sent on the school district’s computers talking about union business. He was given some of those emails, which he has written about in a series of blog posts. (Just keep scrolling.)
The Howell School District evidently told Zarko it had yet more emails about union business on its computers and was preparing to release them to him when the MEA filed a suit against the Howell School District seeking to prevent that from happening. In Michigan, that’s known as a “reverse FOIA” lawsuit.
Zarko’s take on the Detroit News editorial and the reverse FOIA lawsuit is here.
His argument, and the argument of the Detroit News, is not about the content of the emails, or about whether what the emails say is or isn’t embarrassing. The argument is that the emails were written on the school district’s computers.
That is, “if taxpayers pay for it, they should see it.”
In the meantime, the MEA’s reverse-FOIA lawsuit is before Livingston Circuit Judge Stanley Latreille, who will review the disputed emails to determine whether they are releasable to Zarko (and the public) under Michigan’s open records laws.
Update: See this blog post and associated comments for rising temperatures about the Howell reverse-FOIA story.