I should also mention that some public bodies approach FOIA requests in a very silly manner. When I made a request to the Wexford County Sheriff earlier today, they had a .pdf of 16 pages in length showing the forms they use for FOIA.
It should be noted first that you are never under an obligation to use a FOIA request form supplied by a public body, in fact it's usually created in order to insure that you won't be able to adequately achieve your purpose, as their design (with few exceptions) is meant to limit your scope and/or maximize their ability to deny your request.
But the county, it appears, would be content to mail you about six-ten form pages in the mail with appropriate checks in appropriate boxes informing you why your request for a page of non-exempt records may cost you dearly.
Government, as usual, can't figure out how to do anything efficiently. Did you ever hear the story of my first request sent out to Ludington? I haven't referred to it recently, but it is the occasion of my 326th FOIA request and it should be recalled as it once again was a giant fee for something that should have been easy to retrieve.
John Shay was the FOIA Co-conspirator Coordinator then back in the fall of 2009, and I had noticed that the Building Inspector delivered a summary of new building projects each year as he was required to do by the city charter since 1987. I asked to inspect those summaries at the city hall in a mailed request. I was sent a bill for nearly $1000 with no explanation. When I contacted him again, I found out that the bill covered over $100 in copies I never asked for, and what amounted to nearly two weeks of the Building Inspector's time.
On further inquiry it was learned that they had lost three of the years' summaries during that time, and Shay had thought it would take me two weeks to look through each individual address folder to get information from those three years-- and to keep the records secured and properly kept he would need the BI to babysit me.
FOIA Coordinator Shay had a lot more moments like this, before the city council finally relieved him from this aspect of his job and replaced him with non-city attorneys who charge attorney rates and at times know little about where documents in the city records may be kept. The councilors added an extra level of complexity to their process of fulfilling a FOIA request, multiplied the costs dramatically, and told the public it was a great thing. It's crazy is what it is, and it illustrates how out of touch they are with reality.
Why did I ask for those summaries, you may ask?
To show that the city was failing to enforce their own sidewalk policy time and time again by requiring newly constructed buildings to install sidewalks, then having no sidewalk ever go in. A practice they still continue to this day while they speak of the importance of walkability and sidewalks.
Ridiculous.. Obviously to hide info.