Forty percent of CMU FOIA requests directed toward athletics department

Athletics information is the most requested information through the Freedom of Information Act by outside sources.

Central Michigan Life requested and obtained all FOIA submissions to Central Michigan University from July 1, 2009 to Feb. 2, 2010, excluding those it submitted. Forty percent of FOIA requests had to do with the athletics department.

“I think we’re getting more of those in the last few years,” said Kathy Kelly, legal assistant for CMU’s general counsel office and person responsible for handling FOIA requests.

“It seems that the football coach’s contract is the most requested, especially with Brian Kelly leaving,” she said. “That might have something to do with it too. They’re moving on to a bigger and better place.”

Types of FOIA requests submitted between July 1, 2009 and Feb. 2, 2010 - Athletics-employees contracts 10 - Athletics-budget 3 - Athletics-other 4 - Class data/directory info 4 - Charter schools 4 - employee listings 3 - Police reports 2 - Granholm Nov. 19 visit 2 - Department of Management situation 3 - SOS scores 2 - Miscellaneous 6 - TOTAL 43

Out of the 43 responses, 17 involved athletics. Ten of those requests wanted contractual information involving coaches, and three of those wanted the athletics department budget information. Kelly said since football coach Dan Enos was hired, the general counsel’s office has received “a few” requests for his contract.

Among those who requested information were Campus Conservatives, a few lawyers requesting police records, a reporter from the Associated Press and a reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Among the requests included were documents from a police report involving stolen ceramic tiles from what is now the Education and Human Services Building in February 2009. Another requested e-mails and other documents sent between university officials regarding Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s visit to campus Nov. 19.

The process

Kelly said most requests come from media organizations and companies looking for directory information - that is, lists of class schedules or student listings.

FOIA requests can be made by anyone, not just companies or traditional journalists, for information a public institution holds. That institution then has five business days to respond with a denial or acceptance. The institution can take one 10-business day extension if the records need more time to be gathered.

Kelly said CMU sometimes needs to take the extension if the documents need to be tracked down.

“We try not to take an extension, just because it may be more work on our end following up with people and trying to get the records,” she said.

CM Life’s request for FOIA requests were prepared at the end of the 10-day extension.

Kelly said other members of CMU are informed of requests when they are made. She said Director of Public Relations Steve Smith and David Burdette, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, are informed of what information is being requested.

“We’re doing it generally most of the time now, just so they know what’s up,” she said. “It’s not necessarily they have to see anything, but just kind of a change we’ve made just to keep them in the loop in case there are any controversial issues.”

In February, CMU changed who accepts FOIA requests to only the general counsel office. Previously, requests could be made to Barrie Wilkes, associate vice president of Financial Services and Reporting, as well as Bob Martin, associate vice provost of Faculty Personnel Services. Kelly said the change was made to shorten the process of responding to FOIA requests.