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State of Michigan plays peek-a-boo, redacting publicly available document

Now you see them, now you don't

A state agency’s response to an open records request raises questions of how and when government offices can withhold information from the public.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer attempted in October 2021 to reinstate a prevailing wage requirement through a press release, offering no official directives or public documents. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy responding by asking for relevant communications between Whitmer and the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, using the Freedom of Information Act. Its request called for the state to release the wage requirements companies would have to follow, the text of any executive directive requiring the department to implement the rule, and documents on enforcing the requirements.

The state included in its response a document with several redactions, even though the same document is publicly available without the redactions.

“This is yet another example of FOIA being applied improperly and inconsistently. The records produced in response to this request were available online, and in entirely unredacted form," says Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center. “It is unclear whether these redactions were legally permissible, but it is clear is that public bodies are not applying FOIA in a way that encourages openness and transparency.”

Whitmer’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Under the prevailing wage requirement, which the Legislature repealed in 2018, the state told companies how much they must pay their employees if they wanted to obtain a state contract.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.