|Schuette, left, Meekhof, right|
By Brandon Hall
A State Senator is asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate whether Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof's newly created "Senate Business Office" is subject to public scrutiny via a FOIA request.
Meekhof is trying to keep SBO docs secret from the public and media. Senator Vincent Gregory says Schuette should weigh in. The AG's office confirms they will give an opinion on the controversy.
According to Emily Lawler at MLive:
"The Senate Business Office claims it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, but Sen. Vincent Gregory is asking Attorney General Bill Schuette whether that's actually the case from a legal standpoint.
The Senate Business Office, which handles administrative and business tasks for the Senate, was created (in early 2015).
The question of whether it is subject to FOIA came to the Lathrup Village Democrat's attention after some requests from members and constituents, Gregory said.
"We didn't know the answer. We had asked around and nobody seemed to know the answer, so we ended up sending a request to the Attorney General for his opinion on it," Gregory said.
The Attorney General can opine on legal matters, and his opinions stand unless overturned by new legislation or a court case. When an individual legislator lodges a request, the Attorney General can choose whether or not to opine.
Asked whether he planned to answer the request on Thursday, Attorney General Bill Schuette said, "We always answer everything. How I'll answer it has yet to be determined, so that's under review."
Michigan law subjects public bodies to FOIA, but does not mention the legislature. In a 1986 Attorney General opinion, former AG Frank Kelley determined that legislators were not subject to FOIA. In fact, they had been included in an earlier version and were stripped out. However, the attorney general opinion did not address whether the House Business Office or Senate Business Office were subject to FOIA."
Lawler's piece notes that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof is trying to keep the publicly funded office's information secret, as usual...
"But the Senate Business Office is claiming it is exempt from FOIA and not releasing information to the public...
"Anything that we do with the public's money, how we spend it, how we do salaries and stuff in here, that stuff we publish. And we should," said Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive. "But I'm very very protective of our communication between constituents in our office. That has to be sacred."
Meekhof said that the Senate Business Office was properly exempted from FOIA, as it handles personal information.
"The business office deals a lot with people's health records and other things. Payroll, friend of the court stuff, all that personal stuff so I think they're probably in a good spot," Meekhof said."
Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
>>>Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com