A Freedom of Information Act request from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni concerning an endowment gift to the University of Michigan has led to a lawsuit against the school for not responding.
According to the complaint, ACTA filed the request on behalf of an alumnus who wanted to obtain information relating to an endowed gift. The lawsuit explains that the University’s initial response came five days later than legally required, along with an estimate that it would take approximately seven hours to complete, and up to forty-five days to produce the documents along with a fee.
Over the next nine months, the university would delay another six times, eventually providing a partial response on Dec. 9, 2020.
Citing this behavior as an “unreasonable delay”, the Mackinac Center filed suit on December 22. “The requested materials were financial records for an endowed workshop program, and should have been easily reviewed and provided, even remotely.”
“Transparency, accountability, and respect for donor intent should be at the heart of every college or university,” ACTA President Michael Poliakoff said. “The fact that such a prestigious public institution is obstructing a single donor’s wish to see the financial records connected to his gift is disheartening. I would have preferred not to resort to legal action, but the University of Michigan’s failure to adequately respond to our request has given us no other option.”
The Mackinac Center told Campus Reform that the university had offered to complete the request, and had indicated the information was now available to obtain, so there would be no more delays.
“Although we are glad our client will be able to have access to these records, we will be maintaining our lawsuit in light of the unreasonable amount of time required to obtain these records,” according to a spokesperson for the Mackinac Center.
The university cited the state’s stay-at-home order and a record-high number of other FOIA requests as reasons for the delay.
“A partial response was provided in November for several years and the FOIA office is nearing completion of its review of additional documents,” University of Michigan Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs Rick Fitzgerald explained.
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