Complaint Filed Against Eastern Michigan University for FOIA Violation

MICHIGAN — A complaint was filed in the Michigan Court of Claims by Gretchen Hertz, an independent researcher working with the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, against Eastern Michigan University for impairing her access to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and Hertz’s ability to fully participate in the democratic process. The complaint claims that Eastern Michigan University used mistruths to keep Hertz from accessing information.

On August 16, 2022, Hertz filed a FOIA request with the University seeking information regarding the University’s agreement with Gilbane Development Company to privatize student housing at the University. In response, the University claimed that the records requested did not exist.

Naomi Barbour, a junior at EMU reacted to the news, “EMU has failed to live up to the core value of Integrity in their FOIA response. If any student were to cheat or lie on an exam, for example, they would be punished and possibly expelled from EMU.”

According to a press release issued by the Carpenters, upon further clarification and Court action, the University ultimately complied with the request and produced over 500 pages of responsive documents. Within those documents, Hertz found executed agreements between Gilbane and University dated in January and March of 2022. These documents were clearly executed and in existence at the time of the original FOIA request filed by Hertz.

Hertz is requesting relief including civil fines under MCL 15.240(7) in the amount of $2,000; civil fines for each violation under MCL 15.240b in the amount of $15,000.00; punitive damages in the amount of $2,000; attorneys’ fees and costs; and compensatory damages.

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