Freedom of Information Act
Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires the District to produce certain public records upon request. FOIA also permits the district to exempt certain records from disclosure and, in some cases, to charge fees for responding to public records requests. Please refer to our Freedom of Information Act District Guidelines for a brief summary of the manner in which the public may access the District’s public records.
- Submitting Requests
- Limits on FOIA Requests
- FOIA Processing Fees
- Response Times
- Verbal Requests
- Service Option
In order to inspect, copy, or receive copies of a public record of the District, you must provide the District with a written request that describes a public record sufficiently to enable the District to find it.
Please submit your request to the FOIA Coordinator at 850 Ladd Road, Bldg. D, Walled Lake, MI 48390. With limited exceptions, all FOIA requests must be in writing. Please use the form at the end of this document (you can also obtain one in person at the District’s main office). If you do not use the standard form, please include the following in your request:
- Contact information: Please include your name (the District will not respond to nameless requests or requests made by non-existent entities), mailing address (where you would like us to send the response to your request), and telephone number (so we can reach you with any questions concerning your request).
- Complete description of the records you are requesting: Please include enough information to enable District staff to identify and locate the public record(s) you are requesting. In order to use the FOIA properly, you must clearly identify information that is in a public record or identify an actual public record, which is defined as a writing prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body in the performance of an official function from the time it was created. The FOIA does not require public bodies to create new records or compilations of information in order to respond to a request.
- Format: You will receive double-sided paper copies if it saves on costs and it is possible to do so, unless you specify otherwise in your request.
The FOIA does not grant an absolute right to examine government documents; instead, it simply establishes the right to request records and to receive one of four types of responses to the request – your request will either be granted, denied in part, or denied in full. Or, if the District needs more time to process your request, you will receive a letter extending the District’s deadline for sending you one of the other three responses.
The FOIA allows denial of requests for information and records that fall within the exemptions that are set forth in the FOIA. Your request may also be denied if it seeks information that does not relate to the operations of government or if it seeks to obtain something that is not a public record of the District. The FOIA does not create a right to obtain personal information about other people. Its purpose is to foster the public’s understanding of government functions. In addition, the FOIA does not require the creation of a new public record, a compilation of information from various records, or the disclosure of tangible objects or property.
If a record or certain information cannot be released, you will be told the reason for the denial, including any exemption in the FOIA that applies to your request. If you disagree or believe an error has been made, you have the right to appeal the denial to the Superintendent and/or the Oakland County Circuit Court.
If you are serving a sentence of imprisonment in a local, state, or federal correctional facility you are not entitled to submit a request for a public record.
The FOIA allows you to request a “subscription” to future issuances of public records that are created on a regular basis. A “subscription” is valid for up to 6 months and may be renewed.
Also, please note that the FOIA does not require the District to answer questions. You should contact school officials or employees directly by phone or in person if you have questions that you wish to discuss.
Fees are assessed in accordance with the FOIA. The total fee will be itemized in 6 components:
- Labor time for searching, locating, and examining in order to fulfill your written request (calculated in 15 minute increments (rounded down) and based on the lowest hourly wage of an employee capable of performing those tasks)1 3
- Labor time for redacting exempt information from the records (calculated in 15 minute increments (rounded down) and based on the lowest hourly wage of an employee capable of performing the redaction, except if no employee can do it, the labor may be contracted out for 6 times the state minimum wage)1 2 3
- Actual and most reasonably economical cost of nonpaper physical media4
- Actual total incremental cost of necessary paper copies provided to you (not to exceed 10 cents per page for letter and legal size copies; any other size will be at actual cost); copies will be double-sided if it saves on costs and if it is possible to do so unless you stipulate otherwise
- Labor time for making copies, including transferring information to nonpaper media or through e-mail (calculated in 6 minute increments (rounded down) and based on the lowest hourly wage of an employee capable of performing those tasks)1 3
- Cost of mailing (including the least expensive form of postal delivery confirmation)
- A fringe benefit multiplier up to 50% of the hourly rate, determined annually, will be added to the labor charge.
- No charge for redacting will be assessed if the District knows or has reason to know that it already has the redacted version in its possession.
- Overtime rates will not be charged unless your request will require overtime and you agree to the completion of the request using overtime to do so.
- The District will procure the requested nonpaper physical media. For security reasons, the District will not accept or utilize any nonpaper physical media not procured through official District procurement methods.
You will not be charged search and redaction costs for a FOIA request unless failure to charge would result in unreasonably high costs to the District due to the nature of your request. The District has determined that the cost is unreasonably high when it disrupts an employee’s work day by 15 minutes or more. Anything less is a reasonable amount of time away from normal job responsibilities in order to serve the public; anything more becomes a disruption of the employee’s ability to perform normal job responsibilities in a timely and efficient fashion.
If all or a portion of the records you are requesting are available online, you will be notified of the website address and advised that a higher fringe benefit multiplier may be charged if you still wish to obtain copies through your FOIA request.
If you are indigent, you may submit up to 2 requests per calendar year for which the first $20.00 of the total fee will be waived. You must submit an affidavit regarding your indigency and you must attest that you are not making the request for anyone else in exchange for payment or other remuneration.
Your request will be filled for free if you are a nonprofit organization formally designated by the State to carry out activities under subtitle C of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 and the Protection and Advocacy for individuals with Mental Illness Act, or their successors, if your request is made directly on behalf of the organization or its clients, the request is made for a reason consistent with the mission and provisions of those laws under Section 931 of the Mental Health Code, and the request is accompanied by documentation of its designation by the State.
A search for a public record may be conducted or copies of public records may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge if a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because searching for or furnishing copies of the public record can be considered as primarily benefiting the general public. For example, your request may be filled for free if you are a governmental entity, the request is related to inter-governmental cooperation, and the request is not overly burdensome or voluminous.
If your fee is expected to exceed $50, you will be notified and asked for a good-faith deposit of ½ of the total estimated fee. The notice will also indicate the estimated time that it will take to completely fill the request after receipt of the deposit.
If you previously failed to pay for copies that were made available pursuant to a previous request during the preceding 12 months, and more than 90 days have passed since you were notified that the requested records were available, you will be required to deposit 100% of the estimated fee before the new request will be processed unless (1) the final fee for the previous request was more than 105% of the estimated fee; (2) the District no longer has the records; (3) the records were not made available to you in a timely fashion; (4) you are able to show proof of payment in full for the previous request; or (5) you pay in full before making the new request.
In general, the FOIA requires a written response to your request within 5 business days from its receipt. Requests on paper are considered received on the day they are hand-delivered or opened in the mail; electronic requests are considered received on the next business day after transmission. If an e-mail request ends up in a spam or junk folder, it will not be considered received until it is actually found.
Within the first 5 business days, your request will be granted, denied, or denied in part, or you will receive a written notice extending the time for responding by an additional 10 business days. If your request is ambiguous, voluminous, or already available online, you may be contacted to inquire whether you would consider revising the request. A revised request will be considered a new request subject to the timelines set forth in the FOIA.
If the District’s response to your request is not timely, labor costs will be reduced by 5% for each day after the deadline for responding, up to a 50% maximum reduction, so long as your request included language that conveyed a request for information within the first 250 words of the body of your letter, fax, e-mail, or e-mail attachment, or specifically included the words, characters, or abbreviations for “freedom of information,” “information,” “FOIA,” “copy,” or a recognizable misspelling of those words, or an appropriate legal code reference for the FOIA, on the front of an envelope, or in the subject line of an e-mail, letter, or fax cover page.
Individual departments and schools within the District may fill certain types of verbal requests. However, if the information you are seeking is available on the District’s website, you will be advised to use the website or submit a written request. Additionally, verbal requests that will require more than minimal staff time or which will require redaction will be denied and a written request will be required. If you are unable to make a written request due to disability, staff will assist you with writing out a request.
If you are granted the right to inspect requested records, you will be given a reasonable opportunity for inspection and examination of the record(s) along with reasonable facilities for doing so during usual business hours. The FOIA Coordinator or his/her designee must supervise the inspection or take such other measures as will protect the District’s public records and prevent excessive and unreasonable interference with the day-to-day discharge of municipal functions. You will be asked to provide a credit card and full information regarding your identity before the inspection begins in order to ensure that the cost of the inspection will be paid. State law prohibits the use of pen and ink in making copies or notes of records and files and it does not authorize photography; therefore, only a pencil will be permitted and photographing of records will be permitted but limited only to the records and nothing else during the inspection. The full fee authorized by FOIA will be estimated and provided to you before the inspection and examination begins so that you understand the approximate final cost that will be charged at the conclusion of the inspection and examination (including any additional copying costs that may arise). If it reasonably appears that your inspection will involve fees greater than $50.00, a deposit of ½ the estimated total fee will be required prior to allowing the inspection and examination.
In some instances, you may be given the option of either obtaining specific records through the FOIA or through a specific District service. For example, some departments and schools in the District provide document services for specific or routine requests. Although you may use the FOIA if you prefer, the District may offer you the service option as an alternative. Each department or school will have its own internal list of records requests that have traditionally been provided to requestors for a predetermined fee (if any), rather than providing the records through FOIA. If you choose the service option, you will receive the requested records for a flat fee, rather than receiving them under FOIA for the required itemized fees and costs. You will be asked to confirm your choice of the service option in writing.
Your request may be denied if it cannot be located based on your description of it. Your request may also be denied if any of the exemptions set forth in the FOIA apply to the record you have requested. Denial will also occur if a state or federal law prohibits disclosure of the requested record or information. Overly burdensome requests, vague requests, and requests unrelated to governmental functions and operations may also be denied. In some cases, your request will be granted but the public record will be redacted due to an exemption or law that precludes its release. When redaction occurs, you request will be deemed to have been “denied in part.” If the redacted information is not readily apparent, a short description of the redacted material will be included if doing so will not defeat the purpose of the redaction.
If your request is denied or denied in part, you may submit a written appeal to the Superintendent which specifically states the word “appeal” and identifies the reasons for reversing the denial determination, or you may file a civil action in the Oakland County Circuit Court within 180 days after the denial.
If you appeal a denial or partial denial to the Superintendent, you will receive a response within 10 business days. The written response will reverse the denial, uphold the denial, reverse the denial in part and uphold the denial in part, or extend the time for responding for up to 10 business days due to unusual circumstances involving voluminous amounts of public records and/or the need to collect the requested records from numerous locations.
If you disagree with the Superintendent’s appeal determination, you may seek judicial review by filing an action with the Oakland County Circuit Court. If you prevail, the court will award you reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and disbursements, and possibly damages if the District violated the FOIA in an arbitrary and capricious manner. If you prevail in part rather than in full, the court has discretion to award all or an appropriate portion of reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and disbursements.
If you are only appealing the fee that is charged, you must submit a written appeal to the Superintendent for a fee reduction specifically using the word “appeal” and identify how the required fee exceeds the amount permitted under the District’s policies or the FOIA. You do not have a right to file a civil action in the Oakland County Circuit Court until after the Superintendent has decided your fee appeal or has failed to respond within 10 business days. The Superintendent may waive the fee, reduce the fee and issue a written determination indicating how the FOIA supports the remaining fee, uphold the fee and issue a written determination indicating how the FOIA supports the fee, or issue a notice extending the time for a response by up to an additional 10 business days with an explanation of the reasons why the extension is necessary.
If you disagree with the Superintendent’s determination, you may seek judicial review by filing a civil action with the Oakland County Circuit Court within 45 days after receiving the determination by the Superintendent regarding your fee appeal (or within 45 days after the time for the Superintendent to respond has expired). If you prevail by receiving a fee reduction of 50% or more of the total fee, the court may award you any appropriate attorney’s fees, costs, and disbursements, as well as damages if the District arbitrarily and capriciously violated the FOIA.
The above information is only a summary of the District’s FOIA policies and was developed for ease of use by the public. Because it is a more concise version of the District’s complete FOIA policies, it may not contain every detail regarding the FOIA process. For more detailed information, a copy of the District’s Administrative Regulations is available at no charge at the District’s main office and on the District’s website, www.wlcd.org.