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COMING SOON - the July 2015 Updates

Fees for a FOIA Request

A public body is entitled to collect fees for fulfilling a FOIA request. Many times the public body will simply mail back the record(s) requested without charge. (Be sure to send them a thank you if this happens!)

However, sometimes government officials will use the fee provisions to make receiving records prohibitively expensive. Such high fees has the practical effect of denying request without actually legally denying it. (See FOIA: One Word Makes a $7 Million Difference).

Fees Generally

Under Michigan's FOIA, a public body may charge a fee for a public record search, the necessary copying of a public record for inspection, or for providing a copy of a public record. MCL 15.234(1). Any fee is supposed to be limited to actual mailing costs, and to the actual incremental cost of duplication or publication including labor, and if required, the cost of search, examination, review, and the deletion and separation of exempt from nonexempt information.

A public body may require a good faith deposit at the time of request which cannot exceed one-half of the total cost.

The first $20 of work must be free for a person who is on welfare or presents facts showing inability to pay because of indigency.

Request No Surprises

Some FOIA requesters are concerned that the government agency is going to surprise them with a bill that they are then obligated to pay. While this absolute-obligation has not been seen in Michigan, the best route to take is to require the agency to contact you if the request is going to cost more than a certain amount, say $20.00. We have included sample language in our FOIA Request Generator.

Labor Fee Limitation

Because public bodies are not required to keep FOIA-ready copies of their records, any required labor fee must be no more than the hourly wage of the lowest paid public body employee capable of retrieving the information necessary to comply with a request. Be sure to check for this when reviewing a FOIA invoice.

Fee for Separating Exempt from Non-Exempt

While labor fees may be charged for request fulfillment labor, FOIA creates a special provision for the labor costs associated with separating non-exempt information from exempt information (blacking out) in record(s). If a public body needs to undertake separation, the cost of search, examination, review, and the deletion and separation cannot be charged UNLESS the public body determines that such an undertaking would lead to "unreasonably high costs to the public body" and such a determination must be specifically identify the nature of these unreasonably high costs.
 - 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

 - 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 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

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only.