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Michigan Department of Education Freedom of Information Act Procedures and Guidelines
Procedure: Freedom of Information Act Requests
Effective Date: July 1, 2015
A. Appointment of FOIA Coordinator.
In accordance with section 6 of the FOIA, MCL 15.236, the Department has appointed a FOIA Coordinator, as well as an alternate FOIA Coordinator. The names of the FOIA Coordinator and alternate FOIA Coordinator are available from the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
B. Submission of FOIA Request.
FOIA requests to the Michigan Department of Education can be sent by email, facsimile or mail to:
608 West Allegan
Pillar G-14, Fourth Floor, John A. Hannah Building
Lansing, Michigan 48933
Requests should include a name, phone number, and mailing address.
C. Immediately Forward FOIA Request.
Any employee of the Department who receives a written request for a public record must immediately forward that request to the FOIA Coordinator at email@example.com. If a Department employee receives a written request for a public record that is delivered to a spam or junk-mail folder, the employee must record the date and time the written request is delivered to the spam or junk-mail folder and date and time the employee first becomes aware of the written request. The employee must forward those dates and times to the FOIA Coordinator with the written request.
D. Request Response Time.
The Department must respond to a FOIA request within 5 business days after receipt of the request. The Department may extend the time for responding by an additional 10 business days by notifying the requesting person in writing of the reason for the extension and the new due date. MCL 15.235(2)(d) and (6) Due to the short statutory time period within which the Department must issue a written notice in response to the FOIA request, it is imperative that there be no delay in complying with the Departmental procedures and guidelines.
Written requests made by facsimile, electronic mail or other electronic transmission are not received by the FOIA Coordinator until 1 business day after the electronic transmission is made.
E. Response to a FOIA Request.
Only the Department's FOIA Coordinator or Alternate FOIA Coordinator will respond to FOIA requests. The Department will provide copies of these procedures and guidelines and a summary of these procedures and guidelines with each written response or provide a link to an online version of these documents. If a request is denied, in full or in part, the Department will provide the requester an explanation of the basis of the denial under the FOIA, and give notice to the requester of his or her remedial rights. MCL 15.235(4)
F. Notification of FOIA Request.
Upon receipt of a FOIA request, the Department's FOIA Coordinator will email or fax the office or offices that might possess records responsive to the FOIA request.
G. Office Response to Department's FOIA Coordinator.
As soon as possible, but not later than two business days before the Department’s FOIA response is due, the office’s response is due to the FOIA Coordinator. The office director or a designee must approve the office’s FOIA response before it is provided to the FOIA Coordinator.
H. Assessment of Fees for a FOIA Request.
The FOIA permits the Department to charge a fee for the search, retrieval, examination, review, and separation and deletion of exempt from nonexempt material, but only if the failure to charge a fee would result in unreasonably high costs to the Department because of the nature of the request in the particular instance, and the Department specifically identifies the nature of these unreasonably high costs. MCL 15.234(1) and (3)
The following fee guidelines for calculating labor and material costs incurred in processing FOIA requests are established pursuant to MCL 15.234(3):
- Fees will be uniform and not dependent upon the identity of the requesting person.
- Fees will be itemized using the attached detailed itemization of fees and will include:
Labor costs for the search, location, and examination of public records will be calculated using the hourly wage of the Department's lowest paid employee capable of conducting the search, location, and examination, whether or not they are available or actually perform the labor. Such labor costs shall be estimated and charged in increments of 15 minutes with all partial increments rounded down. The hourly wage will be based on the Department's payroll records for the applicable fiscal year. Labor costs shall also include up to 50% of the hourly wage to partially cover the cost of fringe benefits, not to exceed the actual cost of fringe benefits.
Labor costs for the review of public records and separation and deletion of exempt from nonexempt material will be calculated using the hourly wage of the Department's lowest paid employee capable of conducting the review and separation and deletion of exempt from nonexempt material, whether or not they are available or actually perform the labor. Such labor costs shall be estimated and charged in increments of 15 minutes with all partial increments rounded down. The hourly wage will be based on the Department's payroll records for the applicable fiscal year. Labor costs shall also include up to 50% of the hourly wage to partially cover the cost of fringe benefits, not to exceed the actual cost of fringe benefits.
Nonpaper physical media costs will be calculated using the actual and most reasonably economical cost of computer discs, computer tapes, and other digital and similar media provided by the Department.
Duplication and publication costs will be calculated using the actual total incremental cost of necessary duplication or publication of a public record, not including labor. The actual and incremental cost, calculated per sheet, shall be charged and will not exceed 10 cents per sheet of paper for letter or legal size paper. The Department shall use the most economical means available for making copies, including the use of double-sided printing, if cost-saving and available. The Department will not charge a fee for duplication costs of less than $1.00.
Labor costs for the duplication or publication of public records, including making paper copies, making digital copies, or transferring digital public records to be produced on nonpaper physical media or through electronic means, will be calculated using the hourly wage of the Department's lowest paid employee capable of duplicating or publishing the public records, whether or not they are available or actually perform the labor. Such labor costs shall be estimated and charged in increments of 15 minutes with all partial increments rounded down. The hourly wage will be based on the Department's payroll records for the applicable fiscal year. Labor costs shall also include up to 50% of the hourly wage to partially cover the cost of fringe benefits, not to exceed the actual cost of fringe benefits.
Actual costs of mailing using a reasonably economical and justifiable manner.
a. No Department employee shall stipulate to work overtime or include overtime wages in the labor costs described in these procedures and guidelines.
b. If a requester submits an affidavit of indigency, the first $20.00 of a fee will be waived. A requesting person must include a statement that the request is not being made in conjunction with outside parties in exchange for payment or other remuneration.
c. Labor costs for monitoring an inspection of original records will be calculated using the hourly wage of the Department’s lowest paid employee capable of monitoring the inspection. Labor costs for monitoring an inspection will not be charged for the first hour. The hourly wage will be based on the Department’s payroll records for the applicable fiscal year. Note: Section 3(3) of the FOIA, MCL 15.233(3), provides, in pertinent part, that “[a] public body shall protect public records from loss, unauthorized alteration, mutilation, or destruction.”
d. If a statute authorizes the sale or production of public records to the public for a specified fee or if a fee for production of public records is otherwise set by statute, the Department will charge the statutory fee in lieu of a fee calculated using the guidelines set forth above.
e. The Department will not charge a fee for the search, retrieval, examination, review, and separation and deletion of exempt from nonexempt material that will take less than one hour. If the search, retrieval, examination, review, and separation and deletion of exempt from nonexempt material will take more than one hour, a fee will be charged in accordance with this procedure pursuant to section 4 of the FOIA, MCL 15.234. The hourly wage will be based on the Department’s payroll records for the applicable fiscal year.
f. If the FOIA Coordinator knows or has reason to know that all or part of the requested information is available on the Department’s website, the Department shall notify the requestor in its written response and shall include the website address in that response. The FOIA Coordinator shall separate the requested public records available on the website from those that are not available, and shall inform the requestor of the additional charge to receive copies of what is available on the website.
I. Deposit Requirements.
If the Department estimates a fee to process a FOIA request greater than $50.00, the Department will require a good-faith deposit from the requestor before providing the public records to the requestor. The deposit shall not exceed 1/2 of the total estimated fee. Any written notice containing a notice of a deposit shall also contain a best efforts estimate by the Department regarding the time frame after a deposit is received that it will take the Department to provide the public records to the requestor. The time frame estimate is not binding upon the Department, but the Department shall provide the estimate in good faith and strive to be reasonably accurate and to provide the public records in a manner based on this State's public policy under section 1 of the FOIA, MCL 15.231, and the nature of the request in the particular instance.
If the requestor has made a previous request under FOIA for which the Department has not been paid in full the total amount for copies of records requested, the Department may require, under conditions set forth in MCL 15.234(11), a deposit of up to 100% of the estimated fee before it begins a full public record search for any subsequent written request from that individual.
J. Appeals of Fees and Disclosure Determinations.
If the Department charges what the requestor believes to be an excessive fee or denies all or part of a request, the requestor may submit to the Superintendent of Public Instruction a written appeal that specifically states the word “appeal” and identifies the basis for which the fee should be reduced or the disclosure determination should be reversed. Written appeals may be sent to MDE-SuperintendentAppeals@michigan.gov, or the mailing address listed above and will be forwarded to the Superintendent of Public Instruction or the person designated by the Superintendent of Public Instruction to respond to written appeals.
K. Further Appeal Concerning Fee Reductions or Disclosure Determinations
A requestor may, within 180 days after the Department’s final determination to deny a request, commence a civil action in the circuit court to compel disclosure. Under section 10(4) of the FOIA, MCL 15.240(4), the “circuit court of the county in which the public record or an office of the public body is located has venue over the action.” Actions involving fee reductions must be filed within 45 days after receiving the notice of a required fee or the determination of an appeal to the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
L. Transparency Liaison.
The MDE Transparency Liaison is Alisande Shrewbury, 517-241-2077, firstname.lastname@example.org. The role of the transparency liaison is to assist members of the public seeking a public record from the department.