WSU students were denied public documents by Duggan’s office on May 12 and 14.
Duggan’s office told students that the documents outlining the Riverside Park land swap with the Moroun family were not public, even though they were announced by the mayor at a press conference on April 29.
This denial violates the MPC, which states that those who do not disclose the documents could face fines up to $1000 and not more than one year imprisonment.
At the press conference, Duggan outlined the contents of the agreement and told reporters that it “was headed to the City Council for approval within the next week.” On May 12, nearly two weeks after the announcement, the written deal had not been submitted to the City Clerk’s office. The Mayor’s office denied a written deal even existed yet, arguing the agreement was not yet a public document.
The agreement was filed by the Mayor’s office to the Detroit City Clerk at 2:08 p.m. on May 14, several hours after the students made the second request. The students, Tim Carroll and Alexander Franzen, filed a complaint with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office on May 15.
One member of the office said that the records did not exist, because it was “a proposal and an idea.” The “non-existent” document - also known as the Land Exchange Agreement between the City of Detroit and the DIBC - did exist.
According to the document itself, it was also notarized and approved by the mayor and by Oakland County Notary Public Amanda Elias on May 4.
After an office staff member repeatedly said the document was not a public record on May 14, she called the mayor’s spokesman John Roach. The staff member repeated to the students what Roach said over the phone: “All the information we’d like to share with the public is on the website.”
After this denial, the students attempted to read the Michigan Penal Code section. The section states that public officials are required to disclose public records during business hours when requested.
The students were stopped by a member of the mayor’s staff who told them that the MPC did not apply because the document wasn’t a public record yet.
Official Complaint To Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
Dear Ms. Worthy,
This letter is to complain about a denial to view public records from the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. I believe that this denial was a violation o the Michigan Penal Code. Chapter 750, 328-1931-LXXI, Section 750.492 of the MPC states that public records must be disclosed during business hours. The code is attached to this letter.
On Tuesday, May 12 and again on Thursday, May 14, my colleague Alex Franzen and I attempted to request public documents from the Mayor's office related to a land transfer agreement between the city and the Detroit International Bridge Company. On May 12, we asked to see the agreement. We were told by the Mayor's executive assistant Kitty Whitfield that it was not a public record until it was submitted to the City Clerk's office and that the agreement was "like an idea."
On a second visit to the mayor's office on May 14, Whitfield called Detroit communications director John Roach and spoke with him about the availability of the document. Roach told Whitfield that all the information the Mayor's office wanted to share with the public was available online. I then read the MPC to Whitfield in another attempt to view the document but was interrupted by Whitfield, who argued that the agreement was not a public record because it had not been submitted to the City Clerk and therefore, was not available.
However, the agreement was announced in a public press conference on April 29 where details of the agreement were verbally disclosed by Mayor Mike Duggan and others. The written agreement was then notarized by the Detroit International Bridge Company on the same day. Lastly, the deal was approved and signed by the mayor and notarized by Oakland County Notary Public Amanda Elias on May 4, eight days before we requested to see this document.
I believe that this written agreement became a public document when it was verbally announced to the public on April 29. This was reinforced when the written agreement was approved by Mayor Mike Duggan on May 4 and notarized. Furthermore, the disclosure of these records are in the public interest.
The agreement existed as a public record at the time it was requested. The denial of the mayor's office to disclose the records is a direct violation of the Michigan Penal Code.