Ypsilanti — Eastern Michigan University is refusing to release a pre-development agreement they signed with private contractor, Gilbane, to build student housing. The request for the document came from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The refusal to follow the FOIA law and release the pre-development agreement is the subject of a legal action brought by the Carpenters.
At issue is a decision made last year by EMU to privatize student housing, leasing its housing operations to Gilbane for 35 years. The move was not without controversy as leading faculty members called for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in EMU President James Smith and his Chief of Staff Leigh Greden. Adding to the controversy is Gilbane’s intention to violate a longstanding campus practice by using non-union carpenters to build student housing.
“By using union carpenters, you demonstrate that you value workers who have gone through extensive training, who are paid area standard wages and good benefits reflecting their hard-earned skill, and who are much more likely to be active members of our local community. Together, union carpenters and their contractors are leading the way in providing training and opportunities to people from underrepresented populations so they can join an industry and experience the benefits of working in construction. And because they are well-trained and dedicated professionals, using union carpenters is the surest way to have your projects delivered on time and on budget,” were the words of numerous local elected officials who sent an open letter to President Smith in October.
The letter and other actions that concerned citizens can take can be found on a website operated by the Carpenters at www.EMUCarpenters.com.
According the Michigan government website, Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), MCL 15.231 et seq, provides that all persons are entitled to full and complete information as to a public body’s fulfillment of statutory functions and concerning the inner working of government in general.
Upon providing a public body’s FOIA coordinator with a written request that describes a public record sufficiently to enable the public body to find the public record, a person has a right to inspect, copy, or receive copies of the requested public record of the public body. A public body may charge a fee to cover the cost of processing a request.