How to Request RecordsRequesting records under FOIA is your right under state law. Many individuals incorrectly feel or believe that they are doing something "wrong" by doing so. This is not true. To make the process easier, use the following steps to successfully retrieve the records you seek.
Make Sure to Ask the Correct Governmental BodyWhen requesting records, a public body can only disclose or provide copies of records it has in its possession or control. An public body cannot and will not take the time and effort to find the record you are seeking from a different body.
Often times these records may be available immediately without the need for a formal request, but not usually. The best way to find out if the record you need is available is to call and ask. Most governmental employees are happy to help you but be beware that occasionally you may run into a difficult official. Don't be dissuaded.
FOIA CoordinatorUnder state law, each public body has an appointed "FOIA Coordinator." MCL § 15.236. This person is the employee or official responsible for handling all FOIA requests. You can call the agency to find out who this person is or you can simply address your request to the "FOIA Coordinator."
Clearly Specify the Records SoughtMichigan's FOIA only requires that the requester describe a public record "sufficiently" to allow the public body to find the record. Despite the liberal standard, requesters still need be as clear and specific as possible when requesting a record. This is needed for two reasons.
First, clearly identifying records will reduce the amount of time (and cost) needed to locate the records you seek. Public bodies can charge fees for actual duplication, mailing, and clerical labor costs. The clearer you are, the faster the record can be found. Second, a public body will fulfill your request to the letter, often times to ridiculous specificity.
For example, if you make the following request:
A record of teachers' salariesYou will likely receive simply a list of numbers without any names of any of the teachers. Certainly that was not the intent of the requester but the public body is technically fulfilling the request.
A better request would be:
A record with the full name and annual salary of all teachers and educators or like-kind employees at Anycity Public Schools
No Special Form RequiredFOIA does not require a special form to make a FOIA request. Some public bodies have created their own forms. Either way, requests need to be in writing. Requests should be mailed but can also be delivered via email or fax. You can also use our FOIA Request Generator.
Making More Than One RequestYou are entitled to make as many requests as needed. It is cautioned to use your FOIA rights within reason. There are other legal remedies to stop requesters who are abusing the right to access public records.
FOIA - What is FOIA
- Fees for a FOIA Request
- How to File a FOIA Request
- Review Procedures and Penalties
- FOIA Request Generator
- Copy of FOIA Statute
- I need a FOIA attorney
OMA - What is OMA
- Basic Rights and Responsibilites
- Notice Requirements
- Closed Meetings and Sessions
- Keeping Minutes
- Enforcement and Penalties
- Copy of OMA Statute
- I need an OMA attorney
About MIFOIP - About the Project
Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants...
Louis D. Brandeis
in Other People's Money