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Mackinac Center sues UM over slow FOIA response

Mar 3, 2017

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is suing the University of Michigan for taking too long to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request.

Attorney Patrick Wright says his group wanted all emails sent by UM President Mark Schlissel that mentioned the word "Trump."

That's after Schissell publicly disparaged Donald Trump's campaign after he was elected, saying it was based on hate. 

Wright says the University eventually provided four emails, claiming exceptions to several others - but it took 100 days.

"There's no way it could possibly take 100 days to provide four emails," says Wright.  "It's beyond the pale."

Wright says the emails that were provided were not "egregiously" embarrassing. 

He says the University is wrongly relying on a part of the state's FOIA law that allows a "reasonable" amount of time to comply, after a requester has provided a good faith payment of half the cost of the complying with the FOIA.

Wright says it would be better if state lawmakers were to modify the FOIA law to provide a deadline for "reasonable" amounts of time to comply with requests.  Barring that, his group plans to continue filing similar cases to establish case law that will define it.

The group has also sued the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for taking too long to comply with a FIOA.

A University of Michigan spokesman says it "fully complies with our state's Freedom of Information Act."

Disclosure:  Michigan Radio is a division of the University of Michigan.