I made a FOIA request shortly after my prior request to see the business dealings between the City and Tye Signs that was pretty much the same.  It had the usual lead-in (and end parameters) and asked for these records, requested because of the concern that the City was having sidewalks installed by unlicensed contractors with a questionable competition -quelling contract:

 

"All contracts, bids on projects, correspondence (mail and E-mail), invoices, and receipts between the City Of Ludington or any of its divisions and Carr Creek Construction (or its owner Kevin Spuller) since the year 2008 inclusive."

 

FOIA Coordinator John Shay replied within time with the following reply: 

 

"I have attached the City of Ludington ’s response to your FOIA request.  The itemization of the $102.25 charge is as follows: 

2.08 hours x $14.00/hr. = $29.12 + $15.38 fringe benefits + $77.75 copy charge (311 pages x $0.25/page) less $20 credit = $102.25"

In December 2010, the City Manager changed the rules for FOIA requests.  He made it a lot more costly and difficult for common people to get FOIA requests.  But here is his Revised FOIA Policy in .pdf.  In that document, it says for inspection:


For months, Mr. Shay has been providing me original written records via scanned electronic files.  He has rightly not charged for scanning, as the law says you shouldn't.  There should be no exempt information on these transactions and contracts I requested.  They can be sent without worrying about the protection or preserving of the documents.  Yet, unlike many other times he has sent such records free, he has decided to charge for letting me inspect them this time.  This is against policy and law.  Taking this fee off, the charge is for 2.08 hours of clerk work (mostly scanning, one would think) that amounts to $29.12 +  $15.38 = $44.50 of labor charges.  Yet the revised FOIA says in sec. 5b:


Mr. Shay identified the labor costs to the City at $44.50 total.  $44.50 is less than $50.00.  Charges for labor below $50 means that the City has not experienced unreasonably high costs (see the , leading to 'no charge' for labor.
When you add up the new figures:  $0 for copies, $0 for labor, and $0 for postage, you end up with $0.  I can do that math.
Of course, this is nothing new.  X has already shown that John Shay looks to be guilty of two misdemeanors in his efforts to quash the availability of city records.  With the host of other things we've learned from the records we have seen, I can see why he does his best to do so.


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This has had some new developments, as John Shay continues to block the free flow of information about the dealings of the City with officials of the City and their Companies.  Using the above City laws to show his unlawful charges Eve sent:

 

"Sir,


Why am I getting charged copying fees for inspecting this non-exempt material (see City's FOIA policy 5a)?  When you knock these charges off, the fees of the clerk and her benefits, $44.50, does not, according to the City's definition of  charging for an "unreasonably high costs" :  "anytime it takes the City to search, examine, et. al. the records whenever the costs exceed $50.00 (sec. 5b).  I include the latest FOIA policy of the City as an attachment to show that you have for the umpteenth time determined an illegal fee.  Please read it; you made it.  Thank you for either sending this free of charge via a .pdf or allowing me to come in to look at it.  If you deny me such, consider this another APPEAL."
 
He pointed to the same section 4 of the City's policy above and said:  "...In order to preserve or protect these written records and to prevent excessive or unreasonable interference with the conduct of the affairs of the City or employee functions, the City has copied the public records that you requested to inspect and will charge you the standard copying charge pursuant to Section 4 of the City’s FOIA Policy. Upon receipt of your payment in the amount of $102.25, the City will send the records to you.    John Shay" and another E-mail followed: 
 
"In your e-mail to me dated September 23, 2011, you requested an appeal of the City’s decision to charge you fees to provide the records that you requested under FOIA. An appeal to City Council may occur only in the event that “a public body makes a final determination to deny all or a portion of a request. . . .” MCL 15.240(1). In this case, your request was not denied, but was in fact granted. Accordingly, your appeal will not be placed on the agenda before the City Council. The records you requested will be made available to you upon payment of the fees."
 

 

And we will give the devil his due, we cannot just appeal fees, only partial and full denials, but we can report violations of the law to other agencies and media outlets, which we did in an "appeal to follow the law" in response to these two E-mails.  Pardon the audacity of citizens who read the FOIA and find these words:  It is the public policy of this state that all persons, except those persons incarcerated in state or local correctional facilities, are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees, consistent with this act...
:

 


The records are officially being denied me because you are violating the law in doing so, by violating MCL 15.234 (3):  "A public body shall utilize the most economical means available for making copies of public records." 
 
If you had actually done this, the "copying" fees you charge this indigent person would not exist as you could just have me inspect (as I asked) these non-exempt documents for free, or if you truly think these recent contracts and invoices with an allegedly unlicensed independent contractor company owned by a city official (until Jan 2011) need to be "protected and preserved" (your vague FOIA policy words) you could have a City Employee overlook the handling of them at the City Hall, as I would need only less than a day to look through them, not the two weeks of free inspection afforded by court precedent in Cashel v. Regents of U of M  or had them scanned them to me for free  Either way free is less expensive than the collossal waste of paper, ink, and time you want to force on me and the City, contrary to law and my request.
  
I also notice you do not dispute the fact that the $44.50 you charged for labor is below the threshold of "unreasonably high costs" as the City defines it ($50.00), yet still want to charge me for it.  This goes against City law and State law, and is pure public extortion of an indigent individual who wants to bring the city's corrupt contracting practices into the sunlight of a local news medium. 
 
I would appreciate a reassessment of your arbitrary and capricious decision, and an expedient reply to this request you are blocking.  Here's your recent FOIA policy attached for your convenience.  You do have the right under MCL 15.236(3) to designate someone else in the public body to perform as a FOIA Coordinator if you cannot professionally follow the rules and accomplish the duties of the office.
 

I have reviewed many of the FOIA threads and have noticed that your original requests are businesslike and polite.  I have also noticed the Shay comes back with some real whoppers in trying to block your requests with high fees.  I don't begrudge you for berating the fool after that.  In that regard, I look forward to seeing his PP presentation.  Will he be honest with that? 

I love that last paragraph! 

I and Eve have never yet made an original FOIA Request in any disrespectful way.  When he decides to charge big, unlawful fees or tries to adapt the request into something that it wasn't, we do lose our respectful disposition at times in our follow-ups. 

Thanks for noting that, and I am hopeful that the City Clerk, who has shown professionalism in every way in the way she handles her duties, inherits that duty from the Shay (love your nickname for him).

What's sad about this entire situation is that this could all have been avoided if not for the holier than thou attitude of the governing officials. From the police officer who gave you the ticket to the Magistrate, to your boss, to Shay, the Mayor and  Council. It's all been a parade of big egos trying to show everyone that they are in charge and they damn well are going to let everyone know it.

As George West, Jack Byers, I, and lots of other people you've never heard of, the City of Ludington's attitude is not to allow dissent to go unpunished. 

I dare say these people knowingly break the rules because they know that if someone does blow the whistle, they will still make out like bandits. 

Today, we found out in Circuit Court that even though we never received the records and never requested copies for this FOIA request, just to inspect or receive electronic records, Judge Mark Wickens the 51st Circuit Court replacement (and chief judge of that court) for Judge Richard Cooper, who improperly served as judge for over four months while his son was part of the defense's (City of Ludington) legal team, decided that this and several other illegal charges were due to the City of Ludington. 

Effectively, Judge Mark Wickens decided that Eve owed $93.13, which is the amount you get when you add the copying charge plus the worker's fringe benefits, but not the worker's salary.  This was one of many outrages that the judge allowed in this three ring Circuit Court today, when he maintained that our FOIA appeal was a moot point (because the city eventually gave us the records after Shay committed perjury in giving us a false set), and we owed the City of Ludington for about ten requests where we never even seen the records, and were unlawfully charged that add up to $700.  There will be more on this once the final order is written and given to us. 

This does not surprise me, since, ole Judgy Wickens, his own daddy's son, is in charge, and the old man was longly called the "hanging judge" in Mason County for many decades, and so true, some here might just remember his tyrant rule....nlol. Sad to see this move slowly in reverse too, but it's a no-brainer, with this judge ruling. This man Wickens, the oldy, was the predecessor to the precursor of J. Richard Cooper now, and we all know where he stands on issues for the locals, like the Lake Winds Project, and sooo much more. He couldn't even get the Phillips trial right either, and never will, just like his surprising revelation of conflict of interest in the Rotta case of recent, sad, and most  unethical at best, but that's probably a moot issue for a judge, at least nowadays. Just go on with your life Coop, you've already over-stepped the bounds of legality so often, it's not even funny nowadays, it's just a joke, right?

It was a total joke today.  I was cross-examining John Shay for over two hours, going over each of the FOIA replies where we had supposedly owed money.  Even though I effectively showed (in my judicial opinion) that Shay had either violated the City and State's FOIA's fee policies and violated several FOIA protocols, the judge was unmoved, and allowed several court precedents of FOIA to drop by the wayside while defending the City's point of view. 

I found out today, that there is no limit to what a FOIA Coordinator can charge.  First in the Circuit Court and then at the City Hall as the City Council okayed two different types of illegal charges.  This only motivates me more, guys. 

Keep plugging away X. A rational thinking non attorney can see how unethical this FOIA situation is turning out to be. I guess being a lawyer and judge actually clouds ones judgement. In my opinion the real problem lies in the fact that your situation is being handled at the local level. You probably will get no justice until your case is before an impartial court outside of Mason County. It's obvious your opposition all have ties to each other and are looking out for their own self interests.

Will do (no pun intended), I was pretty much just going through the formalities today, as the judge had already looked at all the information and said our side was moot, because we eventually got the material.  OK... but we spent $210 on court costs alone just to get the City to show them... after they lied in court documents that they had? 

No, this cannot stand.

So True guys, the subject of any situation legally, has to be taken "outside of Mason County" to have a fair and impartial hearing for it. No Way it's going to be acted on seriously in good stead here, that's a given, and has been for some decades here, just ask any out of town attorney. They fear the MC judges, and with good reason, for proper and true justice.

That's why I am going to continue FOIA Appeals pro se (without an attorney) and use an out of town mouthpiece when an appeal is called for.  A mistake Joseph McAdams made was to hire local attorney Clay Olmstead for the bogus charges the prosecutor put on him, and he wound up settling out of court.  You take a local attorney, you take someone whose part of the local problem (otherwise shop locally for other stuff).  I am still awaiting the McAdam records from the prosecutor.

Mason County judges are McJudges; fast food justice dispensed with undercooked legal thought and watered-down due process.

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