Questions about 18 documents in FOIA lawsuit

Dear Editor,
Would the State of Michigan Supreme Court have agreed to hear the appeal of Bisio v. Clarkston if they were supportive of previous decisions by lower courts in favor of the City of the Village of Clarkston (“Case with Supremes,” Feb. 26)?
This may mean the city is at significant financial risk, and reputations of COVOC, Clarkston city officials, and several citizens are at risk.
Clarkston city officials have been criticized for not always being transparent and not always following the rules. The City of the Village of Clarkston will be on trial on March 5 under similar criticisms.
Oral arguments will be heard by the State of Michigan Supreme Court in Lansing on March 5 (Bisio v. Clarkston) regarding the 18 documents which were withheld in response to the Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) made by Susan Bisio in 2015.
The 18 withheld documents were identified in the contents of invoices submitted by city attorney Thomas Ryan.
Attorney Ryan’s rationale for withholding the 18 documents was these matters never came before the city – despite the facts that the invoices were submitted by city attorney Ryan, initialed by the former city manager, included in city council meeting packets, and approved for payment by city council in the consent portion of council meeting agendas.
Council meeting minutes document the approvals for invoice payment.
The matters were certainly city business for attorney Ryan to request payment from the city.
The city provided more than 700 documents to the FOIA request. Why were 18 documents withheld? The 18 withheld documents are related to 148 N. Main (proposing developing the former muffler shop to a coffee shop) and the “kerfuffle” between the city, Historic District Commission, and lot owners over the clearing of the empty lot at Waldon and S. Main.
Storm water drainage discussions for 148 N. Main development dominated attorney Ryan’s invoices in February and March 2015. Invoice line items included correspondence and phone calls with the city’s engineering consultant, Hubbell Roth and Clark.
The drainage issues continue today on the north side of Clarkston Road surface abutting 148 N. Main.
The current city manager indicated he is working with the Road Commission of Oakland County to rectify the drainage issue. It is unclear whether the four MDOT “restricted excavation area” markers will complicate the drainage improvement efforts. HRC has storm water knowledge based on attorney Ryan’s invoices.
Speculation continues on the content of the 18 withheld documents and the rationale for their being withheld. City officials, past and present, appear to be not following the rules by not allowing FOIA to work as intended.
Former Mayor Steve Percival asked for assurances that the 18 documents were available and in a safe place. One of the city’s attorneys, Mr. Tamm, said “they are somewhere in my office.”
The citizens of Michigan will benefit if the court decides on the side of FOIA intent, open and transparent governance and citizens right to know.
Chet Pardee

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