MICHIGAN FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
The Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) MCL 15.231-15.246 defines a public record as a “writing prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body in the performance of an official function, from the time it is created.” As a public body, the Ishpeming Public Schools (the “District”) has established policies and procedures that comply with the FOIA requirements. A complete copy of the FOIA is available on the Michigan Legislature website at legislature.mi.gov.
The law defines a “writing” as handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostatting, photographing, photocopying, and every other means of recording, and includes letters, words, pictures, sounds or symbols, or combinations thereof, and papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films or prints, microfilm, microfiche, magnetic or punch cards, discs, drums, or other means of recording or retaining meaningful content.” Email messages are considered to be public records if they deal with official District business. FOIA specifically excludes computer software from the definition of a public record. Note that the District is not required to make a compilation, summary, or report of information, or to create a new public record.
How To File A FOIA Request
The Superintendent is the Freedom of Information Coordinator at the Ishpeming Public Schools and his/her office is responsible for handling FOIA requests. Written FOIA requests can be sent to the Superintendent of Schools, Ishpeming Public Schools, 319 E. Division Street, Ishpeming, MI 49849. Requests can also be faxed to the office at (906) 485-1422 or emailed to FOIACoordinator@ishpemingschools.com.
The District has prepared a FOIA Public Records Request form which is available through the Superintendent’s office and may be used to submit requests. There is also an optional Sample FOIA Request Form. If one of the forms is not used, the following is recommended when making a FOIA request:
- Specify with as much detail as possible the records you wish to inspect and/or receive copies (dates, names, etc.).
- Include your postal mailing address and daytime telephone number and, if applicable, an email address or a fax number.
The law recognizes that, in some instances, the public interest may be better served by not disclosing records. FOIA, therefore, makes certain public records exempt from disclosure for reasons ranging from matters of privacy to confidential attorney-client information. One exemption that applies directly to schools prohibits the Ishpeming Public Schools from disclosing student records protected by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
The Superintendent determines exempt records.
How Much Time Does The District Have To Respond
The District has five (5) business days after receiving a written FOIA request to respond although the response period can be extended by the FOIA Coordinator for up to an additional ten (10) business days. Day 1 of the response period is considered to be the next business day following the receipt of the written request. Email is considered “received” one (1) business day after it was sent. However, if the request is electronically transmitted and delivered to a spam or junk mail folder, the request will be considered received one (1) day after the District becomes aware of it.
The FOIA Coordinator can grant a request; deny it in full or in part citing one or more exemptions; or certify that the requested document/documents do not exist.
Fees For Providing Documents
The District may charge a fee for the search, review, separation of exempt from non-exempt information, copying and mailing of documents. Upon receipt of the request, if a fee is to be assessed, the requestor will be provided with a detailed itemization of fees that will list and explain the allowable charges that compose the total fee. In calculating the cost of labor, the District can charge the hourly wage plus fringe benefit costs of the lowest paid employee capable of performing the task. Labor costs are charged and estimated in increments of fifteen (15) minutes with all partial increments rounded down. If the District does not employ a person capable of separating exempt and non-exempt information, the District may contract the work to a third party person or firm. In such an instance, the District will provide the name of the contracted person or firm on the detailed itemization of fees. The cost of contracted services cannot exceed six (6) times the state minimum hourly wage rate.
In addition, the requestor may be charged for the actual cost of any non-paper physical media such as computer discs, computer tapes, or other digital or similar media. If paper records are requested, the maximum cost per sheet of letter size or legal size paper is ten cents (10 cents) per sheet plus the actual cost of mailing.
If the information requested is available on the District website, the District will notify the requestor including the specific webpage address where the information can be found. Website availability will be noted separately on the fee summary. If the requestor continues to want paper copies, he/she may be charged an additional fee and will be notified of the amount in the itemized fee summary.
Upon calculation and disclosure of the fee, if the estimate is greater than Fifty Dollars ($50.00), the District may require a good faith deposit of up to one-half of the estimate before beginning the search for documents.
Fees may be waived or reduced if the FOIA Coordinator determines that the waiver or reduction is in the public interest.
The first Twenty Dollars ($20.00) of the fee must be waived for persons on public assistance or who are indigent. The first Twenty Dollars ($20.00) must also be waived for a non-profit organization designated by the State of Michigan to carry out activities on behalf of persons with disabilities.
In Person Public Record Inspection
The District will furnish a reasonable opportunity for inspection and examination of its public records and will furnish reasonable facilities for making memoranda or abstracts from its public records during usual business hours (8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday except holidays). The District may make reasonable rules necessary to protect public records and to prevent excessive and unreasonable interference with the discharge of its functions.
A fee may be charged for the cost of searching for and retrieving records for inspection or examination.
Appeals And Challenges
If the FOIA Coordinator does not respond to the written request within the FOIA timeline, the labor costs to provide the records with be reduced by five percent (5%) per day to a maximum of fifty percent (50%). If the requestor believes that the estimated fee for providing the public record exceeds the fees permitted in FOIA, the requestor may file legal action in the Marquette County Circuit Court within 45 days.
If a public records request is denied in whole or in part, the District will issue a written notice of the denial with an explanation of the basis for the denial. If the requested records do not exist the District will provide a certificate that the public record does not exist. If the requested record is denied in whole or in part by the FOIA Coordinator, the denial can be appealed to the Board of Education or, within 180 days of the denial, the requestor can take action in the Marquette County Circuit Court. It is not necessary to appeal to the Board of Education before going to the Marquette County Circuit Court.
For additional information, including copies of FOIA procedures and guidelines and including the public summary and attachments, please contact:
Carrie Meyer, Superintendent/FOIA Coordinator
Ishpeming Public Schools
319 East Division Street
Ishpeming, MI 49849
Telephone (906) 485-5501
Fax (906) 485-1422