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E-M:/ foia opinion may benefit citizens

Enviro-Mich message from "Dave Dempsey" <davemec@voyager.net>

Members of the public seeking public records under the Freedom of
Information Act may benefit from a June 7 opinion of Attorney General
Jennifer Granholm.  State agencies, including DEQ, have routinely charged
for labor costs associated with FOIA searches.


The Freedom of Information Act permits a public body to charge a fee for the
actual incremental cost of duplicating or publishing a record, including
labor directly attributable to those tasks, even when the labor is performed
by a public employee during business hours and does not add extra costs to
the public body's normal budget.

Under section 4(3) of the Freedom of Information Act, a public body may not
charge a fee for the cost of its search, examination, review, and the
deletion and separation of exempt from nonexempt information, unless failure
to charge a fee would result in unreasonably high costs to the public body.
This fee limitation, however, does not apply to a public body's costs
incurred in the necessary copying or publication of a public record for
inspection, or for providing a copy of a public record and mailing the copy.

The phrase "unreasonably high costs," as used in section 4(3) of the Freedom
of Information Act prohibits a public body from charging a fee for the costs
of search, examination, review, and deletion and separation of exempt from
nonexempt information unless the costs incurred by a public body for those
activities in the particular instance would be excessive and beyond the
normal or usual amount for those services.

Opinion No. 7083

June 7, 2001

For more:


Dave Dempsey
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI  48912
517-487-9539 (phone)
517-487-9541 (fax)

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