News Story

Northern Michigan Explains Why It Wanted $4,600 For Names And Salaries Of All Its Employees

Northern Michigan University responded to a story Michigan Capitol Confidential ran about a Freedom of Information Act put in by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, for which the university wanted a $4,600 payment to fulfill.

NMU Spokesman Derek Hall provided this response:

The first document request on July 24 was granted, in part, through the Public Act 108 transparency website with salaries and titles. NMU complies with all state reporting requirements through this site. The second document request for names attached to salary of every employee for the most recent fiscal year is not a document the university produces. In 2016, NMU staff decided such a list posed a risk for our employees. No such document exists and under FOIA we are not required to create new documents. The potential risk was based on identity theft and phishing attempts, subjecting our employees to personal security risks. The university systems and employees are a constant target for hacking and theft attempts. The third document request, highlighted in your article, for all W-2s would result in over 4,100 individual records that would require redaction of other personal information, resulting in the charge of just over $1 each. The 4,100 number includes “all” individuals employed which includes full-time, part-time, temporary and student employees.

The 2016 decision to not produce such a document is an effort to reduce the risk of identity theft. Additionally, the recent Michigan FOIA amendments add an exemption to prevent cybersecurity incidents.