House Dems Call for an Expansion of FOIA

Transparency and accountability must be fixed at the highest levels
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

LANSING – House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) and state Representative Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) called today for an expansion of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to include the Michigan Legislature and the governor’s office.

“When it comes to transparency and accountability, our state government has a major problem that needs to be fixed if we want to restore public trust in government,” Greimel said. “Over the last several weeks, we have seen, once again, the problems that come when government makes decisions in a shroud of secrecy with little oversight or accountability to the public it is supposed to serve.”

The latest example of lack of oversight and secrecy came in the midst of the scandal involving former state Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat. After a report on the investigation was turned in to House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant), it was heavily edited before being released to the public. This “sanitized” report failed to answer questions about the involvement of the Speaker’s office and a possible cover-up or prior knowledge of the affair. This includes meetings with the whistleblower staff and their subsequent termination.

“If local municipalities and counties must comply with this law, then the Legislature and governor should as well,” said Moss, a former Southfield city councilman. “There is no reason Michigan should operate in the dark when it comes to the public’s right to know about how their government makes decisions. When we don’t appear transparent and accessible, we look like we have something to hide. No constituent should feel that way of their legislator or governor.”

Other incidents mentioned include the purchase of a new office space for the Michigan Senate, which cost $134 million while roads and schools remain underfunded. The NERD Fund – with its secret donors and connection to state government ­– was mentioned, along with companies involved in a bill to exempt information held by oil, gas and other energy companies from FOIA requests.

“Secrecy cannot continue to be business as usual in the state Legislature and governor’s office going forward,” Greimel said. “Expanding the FOIA law to the Legislature and governor will help ensure that government acts in the public’s best interest.”