Citing a report putting Michigan dead last in terms of ethical transparency in state government, the progressive watchdog group Progress Michigan is launching a GoFundMe drive to raise funds for a variety of activities related to shining a light on the actions of our elected officials.
Top on their list is to overturn Michigan’s disgusting law that allows the Governor to hide behind an exemption from FOIA laws. Other states like Florida post all emails to and from their governor online:
In order to further the goal of government transparency, Governor Rick Scott announced Project Sunburst. E-mails to and from the Governor will be accessible to the public through an online, read-only e-mail viewer. In addition, e-mails to and from 11 members of the Governor’s Office leadership team, who currently constitute more than 80 percent of the public records requests for e-mails, will be available. This unprecedented step gives the citizens of Florida and members of the media an open and transparent window into how their state government works. […]
The Governor’s Project Sunburst policy requires e-mails to be posted within seven days of receipt or creation unless permission has been granted for an extended deadline.
Sunburst participants will categorize e-mail, and the Governor’s Office of Open Government will review withheld e-mail and make all public records available online. Any exempt items that require redaction will continue to be available through a public records request.
In the coming months, Project Sunburst will be expanded to include other agencies within the Executive Branch.
Florida’s model includes a number of other important elements, all of which ought to be considered in Michigan. The repeal of our FOIA shield for the governor’s office is a good start and, if legislators won’t act, it should be put on the ballot as a referendum to FORCE them to be more transparent.
From their GoFundMe page:
In our quest for full transparency in our state government, we are committed to ending Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions for all state elected officials in Michigan,
At Progress Michigan, we have dedicated years of time and energy to accountability and transparency in our government. Some of our biggest accomplishments include breaking news on the Aramark scandal in our state prisons that led to Gov. Snyder cancelling the private prison contract and the Courser Gamrat scandal the resulted in both representatives being removed from their positions in the legislature. Our most recent project is the Sunshine Squad, the only interactive website in Michigan where you can easily access comprehensive information on campaign contributions and committees for state elected officials. […]
Why we need your help:
Under current Michigan law, the Governor’s office (including staff) and the Legislature are exempt from FOIA. As a result, the Governor and his staff have been able to get away with actions that harm the well being of Michigan residents (most notably in the recent Flint water crisis) and with misusing taxpayer dollars without being held accountable. Ending FOIA exemptions for all state elected officials will help to shine a light on the inner workings of our state government and tell us whether or not our leaders are working on behalf of the people of Michigan who they were elected to serve.
How the funds will be spent:
These funds will be used to pay for specific FOIA requests and/or any legal fees that may result from those FOIA requests, as well as any other legal options available to end the FOIA exemption for Michigan’s state legislators and Governor.
I’d suggest that “any other legal options available” should include a citizen-initiated ballot referendum since it is highly unlikely our current cohort of Republicans in the state legislature are likely to do the right thing to lift our state from the bottom of the barrel.
“This campaign will give average Michiganders a chance to help hold our representatives in Lansing accountable by ending the exemption for the Governor and legislature,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan said in a statement. “Progress Michigan has been on the front lines of FOIA reform for years and now we are inviting others to join us as we fight to end this exemption once and for all. For too long, a cloud of secrecy has hung over these elected officials and Michiganders have had enough.
“Michiganders are the ones who put Snyder in power and yet, we are denied our right to know who and what are informing his decisions that impact Michiganders every single day. It’s an injustice that must end,” Scott continued. “This campaign will give the people of Michigan one more tool to hold our representatives — who are supposed to work for us — in the halls of the Capitol Building accountable for their actions and we are determined to do anything necessary to end this ludicrous exemption.”
Despite Gov. Snyder’s claim that he’s made all the important documents from 2014 & 2015 public regarding his administration’s response to the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water, there is already proof that he has not done so. Also, by not releasing emails from 2013 and before – the time period when many of the important decisions were being made about how to lower Flint residents’ exorbitant water rates – it’s clear we simply do not have all the information we need to judge who knew what, when they knew, and if laws were broken or unethical actions taken.
Please support Progress Michigan and their important work by making a donation HERE.