New lawsuit alleges Attorney General Bill Schuette violated FOIA law
LANSING, Mich. (SINCLAIR BROADCAST GROUP) - Progress Michigan launched a lawsuit against Attorney General Bill Schuette claiming the AG's office violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law and failed to preserve state records.
Sinclair Broadcast Group's cameras were rolling as Mark Brewer filed the lawsuit in the Court of Claims inside the Hall of Justice and as he hand delivered the lawsuit to the Attorney General's office in Lansing.
Brewer is representing Progress Michigan.
Progress Michigan is a non-profit corporation group that seeks to advocate and educate people about "progressive issues."
After discovering through previous FOIA requests that Schuette and his staff were performing official functions using personal email accounts, Progress Michigan sent a comprehensive FOIA request seeking such emails, the complaint says.
The complaint outlines several alleged examples of when the Attorney General or his staff used their personal email addresses to conduct official business.
The complaint alleges that the following state government employees used private email accounts for official business: Bill Schuette, Andrea Bitely, Carter Bundy, John Bursch, Gerald Hills, Carol Isaacs, Aaron Lindstrom, Shannon Price, Mathew Schneider, John Selleck, Dennis Starner, Barbara Teszlewicz, and Joy Yearout.
Based on the evidence they received from previous FOIA requests, on September 27, 2016, Progress Michigan sent another FOIA request to Schuette seeking all emails sent or received by a group of twenty-one people using a personal email account in the performance of any official function since November 1, 2010.
Schuette denied their request, the complaint says, claiming the Department of Attorney General "does not posses" such emails.
Progress Michigan says they filed an appeal which was denied.
Brewer told Sinclair that the complaint is seeking the production of the requested emails, or a declaration that their destruction was illegal.
Progress Michigan's Executive Director says the alleged action of the AG's office vindicates the public's right to information about state government.
Right now, Michigan's Legislature, Governor, and Lieutenant Governor do not have to provide the public information after receiving a FOIA request.
However, the office of the Attorney General is subject to FOIA laws.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Andrea Bitely, the Communications Director for the AG's office, told Sinclair their office is reviewing the lawsuit.