Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Lawsuit: City of Portage Wrongfully Plays Favorites With Police Reports

For Immediate Release | Dec 04, 2014

Portage, Michigan - Can a Michigan city play favorites with who it releases or refuses to release standard police reports to? The answer is no, according to a new lawsuit filed by Hemlock-based Outside Legal Counsel who has filed a lawsuit on behalf a Kalamazoo County resident under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

According to the filed complaint, earlier this year the City of Portage, Michigan denied a local resident copies of police reports for items stolen from his home in the suburb city just south of Kalamazoo, while at the same time freely provided copies to a requesting insurance company from Frankenmuth, Michigan.

The Freedom of Information Act or FOIA (pronounced FOY - YA) is a Michigan state statute which requires local governments to provide copies of police and government-created records, with certain limited exceptions, to citizens who request the same.

"Open governments do not get to pick and choose who gets blessed with access to government records," states Philip L. Ellison, the attorney bringing the suit. "Everyone is to be treated equally before the law."

The suit alleges that the resident personally appeared at the offices of the City of Portage and filled out a Freedom of Information Act request for the public safety/police reports and then paid for, in full, the requested deposit. The City denied access to the records and kept the deposit.

Later, it was learned that many of these police reports had already been provided to an insurance company who had requested the same. The complaint specifically claims that the City of Portage had "no debatable justification" for denying disclosure having already made public the reports.

The suit seeks a court order compelling the disclosure of the public records together with a fine of $500 plus attorney fees in having to bring the legal action.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Court Judge Pamela L. Lightvoet.

A copy of the complaint can be downloaded here.