After discovering that Mayor Mike Duggan was secretly lobbying the emergency manager to use his unprecedented authority to repeal a transparency law, I requested copies of e-mails between both administrations to get a better picture of what happened.
The city of Detroit responded that the cost “to conduct a forensic sweep” of the e-mails likely would exceed $12,000. And once the e-mails are identified, “most of the information will be redacted” because it is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, city attorney Ellen Ha wrote.
“Because all of the individuals identified in your request are public bodies within the meaning of Section 2(d) of the Act, MCL 15.232(d), their communications would be exempt from disclosure pursuant to Section 13(1)(m) of the Act, MCL 15.243(1)(m). This provision of the Act exempts from disclosure ‘communications and notes within a public body or between public bodies of an advisory nature to the extent that they cover other than purely factual materials and are preliminary to a final agency determination of policy or action.'”
The city also would charge $54.52 an hour for an attorney to comb through the communication to determine what to redact.
Ha said the forensic sweep would take an estimated 246 hours at a cost of $47 an hour.
My Oct. 3 request was for all e-mails and other communication regarding Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s abolition last month of Citizens District Councils, which required public input and transparency on private development at a neighborhood level.
Although Duggan denied getting involved in emergency manager orders, the mayor secretly lobbied Orr to abolish the councils.
Duggan’s office has declined to answer any questions about the mayor’s role in eliminating the councils 0r discuss the extent of the mayor’s relationship with the emergency manager.
When Duggan was running for mayor last year, he pledged to fight against the emergency manager because he said the position was undemocratic and overreaching. He told Crain’s he planned “to push the emergency manager out on the first day I am in office and return Detroit to its elected officials.”
This is the third time in two months that the Duggan administration has demanded that we pay thousands of dollars for public records. In August, the charge for EMS records was $42,000. The bill for records of injured firefighters was $4,400.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.