City of Detroit charges outrageous fees for records on council staff salaries


It seemed like a simple request under the state’s Freedom of Information Act: Who are Detroit City Council’s staff members and how much do they make a year?

But to access that information, the city says we first must pay $424.

The reason: The city says it took 16 hours for an employee to access that information. That’s two full work days to identify council staff and their salaries.

Mayor Duggan
Mayor Duggan

It has become increasingly common under Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration to charge outrageous fees for access to basic public records. Last year, the city charged us $42,000 for EMS records, and $12,000 for e-mails between the mayor and then-Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, making it impossible for us to access the information.

In May, the city prohibited us from picking up a CD containing public records until we submitted “a check or money order in the amount of $1.00,” refusing to waive the fee.

In April, we finally sued the city after it refused to disclose records on the number and location of broken hydrants. That case is ongoing in Wayne County Circuit Court.
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Under Mayor Duggan, who is an attorney, public records are often a luxury, affordable only to those able to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The Mayor’s Office declined to even discuss the fees. 

Steve Neavling

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.

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