City Freedom of Information requests slow for resident

After months of Freedom of Information Act requests, city resident Cory Johnston has compiled a list of almost $200,000 in spending he finds questionable by the City of the Village of Clarkston, but few satisfactory answers.
“The city’s decisions at all levels often have little or no documented justification,” Johnston said. “Council resolutions have yet to be provided to the public in the manner required by the City Charter.”
Spending issues for Johnston include $2,300 by the city manager for consultant fees for a proposal to extend special-event permit requirements to private property; $6,000 for new LED street lights; $122,166 for the new Depot Park south bridge and path; and $66,046 in design and consulting fees since 2014 for a DPW garage and city hall expansion
City Manager Carol Eberhardt said it will take some time to respond to the list.
“I have had back-to-back meetings all day today and expect a Girl Scout troop here in 15 minutes. I am also preparing for over 100 children who are visiting City Hall tomorrow,” Eberhardt said in an email, Monday.
Also at issue are lawsuits against the city, Johnston said.
Susan Bisio’s lawsuit regarding a FOIA request for information is pending. The lawsuit was filed in December 2015 regarding a FOIA request for communications between city attorney Thomas Ryan and city engineers in June 2015. The lawsuit is the second time the city has had to deal with FOIA issues, Johnston said.
Richard Bisio, Susan’s husband and a former council member, filed suit in June 2015 charging City Council’s closed meeting in March 2015, about development of 148 N. Main Street, was illegal. The case was settled in a consent agreement, filed on March 14, 2016, in which the city admitted the charge.
“They publicly slandered a former council member for pointing out these failings but said nothing when they agreed that they had acted illegally,” Johnston said. “No apologies and no new policy to avoid it in the future. There are more court cases pending, all costing us money, but you will hear nothing from our elected representatives.”
Johnston’s FOIA requests almost always take at least 15 work days, he said.
“About three weeks to get a response and we have to pay the city a fee to find out how they are spending our money,” he said.
The Michigan Freedom of Information law requires a response within five business days. Municipalities are allowed to issue one 10-day extension, for which they must provide a reason.
When issuing a 10-day extension for a FOIA request for information regarding LED lights, May 23, the city manager said it was “in order to calculate the charge for this request.”
See next week’s edition for more from Cory Johnston and response from the city.
“I found only $25,936 officially approved by the council (for the DPW expansion),” Johnston said. “Part of this cost is $9,997.25 in extra services from the architect and $18,205.06 from the city engineer for which I could find no council approval. Yes, we will be paying the bill and now our city council has started a new committee without any direction, schedule or budget. How much will it cost us this time?”