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Mount Pleasant cites FOIA while withholding city manager finalist names

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A copy of the Freedom of Information Act request denial letter that was received by Central Michigan Life on May 28. CM Life reporters formally requested the names of finalists for the city manager’s position on May 27, but were subsequently denied.

 

Editor’s note: The seventh paragraph of this story was updated at 7 p.m. on June 2.


Mount Pleasant city officials announced last week that commissioners will interview finalists for the vacant city manager position on 
June 24.

City officials still have not released the names of the finalists, even after receiving a formal request under Michigan’s public records law by Central Michigan Life.

Interim City Manager Nancy Ridley is the only finalist who has been publicly named. Ridley and City Clerk Jeremy Howard said the other finalists have asked that their names remain confidential until just prior to the interviews.

“It is in the public’s interest to know who the finalists are – one of them will be running the city,” said Central Michigan Life Editor In Chief Ben Solis. “It is impossible for us, or city residents, to investigate their backgrounds, previous work history and what they can offer to Mount Pleasant if we don’t even know their names.”

CM Life made a formal request for the names of the finalists using the state’s Freedom of Information Act, a state law that allows citizens access to public records. A FOIA request asking for the applications of the finalists was delivered to Ridley on May 27 following a city commission meeting.

Ridley declined to provide the information and stated to Solis at the meeting that the city would deny the newspaper’s request. On May 28, Howard stated in the formal request denial that the information is exempt from FOIA.

There is no exemption for city manager applications or resumes under Michigan’s FOIA. In the city’s denial letter, Howard claimed that city officials may withhold the information under MCL 15.243 Exemptions from public disclosure; (d) Records of information specifically described and exempted from disclosure, and MCL 15.268(f) in Michigan’s Open Meetings Act which states “a public body may meet in closed session for only the following purposes: (f) To review and consider the contents of an application for employment or appointment to a public office if the candidate requests that application remain confidential.” (see Page 22 of FOIA PDF)

CM Life has issued an appeal letter stating that the documents requested – applications and resumes of applicants – are not exempt.

In response to the initial request, CM Life also requested the application materials of all applicants, including the five finalists, as well as any emails or internal documents created after a May 12 closed session in which the finalists were chosen.

 

For a full copy of the guidelines for the Freedom of Information click here: FOIA_Pamphlet_380084_7. Check back with cm-life.com for more on this story.

3 Comments

  1. The letter cites to MCL 15.268(f), not 15.243(f) as implied in the article. 15.268(f) states that a public body may meet in closed session “(t)o review and consider the contents of an application for employment or appointment to a public office if the candidate requests that the application remain confidential.” Therefore, because 15.243 allows for non-disclosure based on any other applicable law, I think their argument is that 15.268 is included in other applicable law.

    • MCL 15.268 Closed sessions; permissible purposes. – Sec. 8(f) of the act does no more than authorize an option to ‘review and consider the contents of an application’ in closed session; it does not exempt disclosure of the application.

      MCL 15.243 Exemptions from disclosure; … – Sec. 13(d) of the act does no more than exempt minutes of the closed session from public disclosure pursuant to MCL 15.267; it does not exempt disclosure of the application.

      The applications, redacted to omit ‘information of a personal nature if public disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy’ pursuant to MCL 15.243 Sec. 13(1)(a), are not exempt from disclosure.

  2. MCL 15.243 Sec. 13(x) clarifies the act does not intend to exempt disclosure of applications for public employment by specifying the sole exception of ‘an application for the position of president of an institution of higher education …’

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