The University of Michigan and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy have reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed in March alleging that the university violated Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
The Mackinac Center’s Michigan Capitol Confidential news service had sought any emails from President Mark Schlissel that contain the word “Trump” from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 16, 2016.
The university estimated it would take 2 hours and 45 minutes of work to fulfill this request. An initial four emails were provided 46 business days after the Mackinac Center paid the fee deposit for processing of its FOIA request. Recently, an additional seven e-mails also were provided.
In the settlement, the university denies any wrongdoing and states that in January of 2017, while in the course of processing the request, U-M received and logged the highest number of FOIA requests ever in a single month in the university’s history. The response period also included personnel absences in the university’s FOIA office due to illness, the university’s December break and nine business days between the final invoice and payment by the Mackinac Center.
The university agrees, however, that this matter has highlighted opportunities for improving the university’s FOIA process.
The university has agreed to revise its internal processes, including creating a new mechanism for tracking FOIA responses, with a goal of not charging fees in 75 percent of responses. It also will create two new staff positions dedicated to FOIA management and response, and the university will publish on its website an annual report on its FOIA response performance.