City FOIA lawsuit settled for $8,974

City FOIA lawsuit settled for $8,974

By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor

Back in May, Clarkston resident Susan Bisio’s request for public records regarding the Millpond Inn Bed and Breakfast, located at 155 N. Main Street, led to a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit against the city.
The lawsuit was settled June 26 in the amount of $8,974.25 for attorney fees after a closed session at that night’s city council meeting was held with City Attorney Tom Ryan to discuss the pending litigation. Back in open session, a resolution was passed to approve the settlement agreement in the lawsuit for attorney fees.
“The $8,974 will be paid from the city’s legal expense budget,” said Clarkston City Manager Jonathan Smith. “No other comments.”
Millpond Inn representatives did not respond to The Clarkston News’ request for comment.
On March 22, Bisio and her attorney, also her husband Richard, filed two FOIA requests to the city for public records involving the city’s actions against the Millpond Inn Bed and Breakfast, including, but not limited to, records regarding the city’s actions and plans to attempt to shut down the bed and breakfast or take other adverse action against that business on a questionable legal basis and for which Ryan recommended there be no public discussion at a city council meeting with representatives of the bed and breakfast.
“Any written request for information falls under the FOIA, whether the acronym ‘FOIA’ is used or not,” Bision said April 28. “I asked for the records because I wanted them. This is the second time that I’ve had to ask a court to force the city to respond.”
Bisio’s FOIA lawsuit over city records being stored on an off-site computer containing information on city land developments went from 2015 to 2021 was settled in April 2021 for $160,000.
“The city’s answer to the complaint admits that the city attorney told the council to ignore my March 9, 2023 email (that the Clarkston News received a copy of), provides absolutely no legal defense to the lawsuit, and states the city is preparing a supplemental response to my FOIA requests,” said Bisio on April 28. “The city agrees I am entitled to receive attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. I’m assuming these fees and costs will not be covered under the city’s insurance policy. If they were, then the insurer would have appointed an outside attorney to handle the lawsuit as they did before.”
Bisio wrote on her website on July 3 (Let’s Clear the Air Regarding Who is Responsible for the Latest Clarkston FOIA Lawsuit (Hint: It Wasn’t Me) that she still has questions.
“The malpractice insurer could always decline to pay the ($8,974) claim, but I think the city has a fiduciary obligation to the taxpayers at least to ask for reimbursement whenever it can. Are city officials protecting the city attorney? If so, why? Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for any of this.
“At budget time, the city manager explained, but only after questioning, that the city increased its legal services budget because the city manager wants to hire a ‘FOIA consultant,’ someone who ‘specializes in FOIA law.’ It’s no wonder the city might finally want to remove the city attorney from involvement in FOIA matters, but why stop there? How many lawsuits must the city attorney cause before the city finds a municipal attorney who can provide them with good advice on all municipal matters?”

PHOTO: The Millpond Inn Bed and Breakfast is located at 155 N. Main Street, just north of Clarkston Road, in Clarkston. Photo: Matt Mackinder

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