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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - FOIA issues reported in accessing State of Michigan contracts

Two of the three State of Michigan agencies that have the authority to manage their contracts independently, Transportation (MDOT) and Economic Development (MEDC), tell the Lansing State Journal it will cost them a lot to see the contracts. From the story Sept. 7th by Kristen M. Daum:

When asked under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Lansing State Journal to review their contracts, an MEDC official said it would cost $1,700 just to allow a reporter to review the contacts. And an MDOT official said the agency would need tens of thousands of dollars before making the information available for review — information similar to what DTMB offers online.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Lottery quickly fulfilled the FOIA request, which showed the bureau manages only one agreement on its own. It has a nearly seven-year contract — worth $320 million — with GTech Corp, a Rhode Island-based company that provides the equipment retailers use to sell lottery tickets. * * *

In a written response to the State Journal’s FOIA request, MEDC officials said it would cost about $1,700 and take 48 hours for their staff to “run reports, review and examine, separate and extract information and copy the records” for the 512 contracts the agency previously told the State Journal it had with outside vendors.

MEDC officials declined to answer follow-up questions last week, including what information might need to be reviewed for redaction in public contracts already in effect. The agency said previously its contracts involved support services such as advertising and computer consulting.

Meanwhile, state transportation officials said in their written response last week that the State Journal’s request to review all of MDOT’s contracts was “exceptionally broad” — so much so that it’s “impossible to accurately estimate the amount of man hours it will take to compile all of the data,” wrote Bill Perod, MDOT’s freedom of information coordinator.

“I would easily anticipate your request to eclipse well into tens of thousands of dollars,” Perod wrote.

MDOT’s written response also came several days late, in violation of state law, and MDOT spokesman Jeff Cranson either would not or could not explain why.

Under Michigan’s FOIA, government entities must provide a written initial response within five business days of receiving a request. Perod did not provide MDOT’s written response until Sept. 4, 10 business days after the State Journal submitted its request.

MDOT has the third-largest budget of any state agency at $3.4 billion this fiscal year.

Michigan Press Association officials said the amounts MEDC and MDOT are asking for to fulfill the FOIA requests “seems excessive.”

“These are taxpayer dollars and taxpayers have a right to know where their dollars are going, without someone having to pay excessive amounts of money,” said Lisa McGraw, MPA’s public affairs manager. “Charging you for their disorganization doesn’t seem reasonable to me.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 11, 2013 09:34 AM
Posted to Indiana Government