Nessel to speak at Fraser Freedom of Information Act seminar – Macomb Daily
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel will lead a seminar on the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act to help improve and promote transparency in government.
The Freedom of Information Act Briefing, sponsored by the Michigan Press Association and the Macomb Daily, will be held at 1 p.m. at CARE of Southeast Michigan in Fraser. It’s open to the public.
Nessel will give a presentation on FOIA and OMA laws and answer questions. The seminar will be held as part of National Sun Week, which celebrates and promotes dialogue on open government, which begins on Sunday, March 13.
“The FOIA/OMA sessions hosted by the AG are a great way to promote transparency in Michigan and educate the public about available access to public records and public meetings,” said Lisa McGraw, chief affairs officer. public of the MPA.
Macomb Daily editor Jeff Payne noted that the public must remain aware of the responsibilities of government units and officials to the public.
“It’s critical that citizens understand the responsibility that public servants have to you, the voters who elect them,” Payne said. “From your local school board and planning commission to officials in Lansing and Washington, D.C., providing access to the deliberations that determine the outcomes that affect you is the duty of every official.”
Nessel is expected to discuss issues with response time, cost, and drafting of FOIA requests, as well as issues regarding public meetings. MPA attorney Robin Luce Herrmann will also be present.
“We see a lot of delays and a lot of exorbitant costs (in FOIA responses),” McGraw said. “There is still a lot of use of Sharpie” for drafting by government officials.
Nessel will also likely talk about Michigan being one of the worst states for transparency. The executive and legislative branches of the state are exempt from FOIA, one of only two states to do so.
The state House of Representatives passed a bill removing the exemption for the governor’s office, the House and the Senate, but the measure did not receive Senate support, the US representative said. State Steve Johnson, R-Wayland.
Johnson, a proponent of more openness in government, said he thinks Michigan’s lack of transparency has facilitated conspiracy theories among residents.
“We need to remove the barriers so that everything is more open,” he said.
And quoting Abraham Lincoln, he added, “Government is supposed to be of the people, for the people, and by the people.
Of allowing FOIA from state lawmakers, he said, “It would make me a better lawmaker and it would be nice for us to have that responsibility.”
Johnson said he was also working on amendments to the FOIA law to address costs, response times and ways to make the process easier for the public and the government.
He and state Rep. Cynthia Johnson (no relation), D-Detroit, are sponsoring bills that would subject the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts to FOIA since both entities receive money from ratepayers via miles.
The seminar will be the first held in the state since before the COVID-19 pandemic, McGraw said. The seminars were held years ago under former state attorneys general Jennifer Granholm and Mike Cox and were revived by Nessel after he took office in 2019. Nessel hosted several sessions in his first 15 months mandate before they are interrupted. One was to be held in Macomb County sponsored by the MPA and the Macomb Daily in March 2020 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation strategies forced it to be cancelled.