On April 5, 2020 at 8:47 pm, Michigan Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order No. 2020-38 (the “EO”) temporarily extending certain Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) deadlines to facilitate COVID-19 emergency response efforts. The EO is in effect until June 4, 2020 at 11:59 pm.
Broadly, the EO provides the following related to FOIA requests and appeals:
- To the extent possible, public bodies are still expected to continue to respond to requests and appeals as expeditiously as possible by using electronic means.
- Employees of public bodies are not required to perform in-person work for the sole purpose of receiving requests or appeals.
- A public body must respond in writing to a FIOA request or an appeal within 10 days of actual receipt. Actual receipt for requests or appeals received by mail, hand delivery, or fax occurs when an employee of the public body physically opens the envelope containing the request or appeal, or physically retrieves the request or appeal from the fax machine.
- If COVID-19 or any related response measures interfere with the timely granting or denial of a request or the timely reversal or upholding of an appeal, the public body may issue a notice extending the period of time in which it will respond for as long as the public body deems necessary (not to exceed the expiration of the EO or any subsequent related EO).
- Portions of requests requiring in-person work efforts by employees of the public body may be deferred until the expiration of the EO or any subsequent related EO. The public body must apprise the requestor of such deferrals.
Given the complexities related to responding to FOIA requests during the current state of emergency, municipalities are encouraged to discuss specific FOIA matters with their municipal attorney.