Tuesday, March 10, 2015

DWSD Denies FOIA Request, Elusive O&M Savings, Gag Order

Prior to the Detroit bankruptcy settlement, it was represented that the proposed $50 million annual lease payment for water-related facilities, payable by the new Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) to the City of Detroit, would be offset partially by cost savings initiated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).

Veolia, the international water management and consulting firm, in a report to DWSD this past December, stated, "...Veolia understands that during the negotiations for the creation of the regional authority, the viability of the Lease charge was based on several sources of funds, including O&M cost savings estimated by DWSD in an amount between $10 million and $20 million annually. The details of these savings estimates were not provided to Veolia and, therefore, were not included in the assessment.” (p.ES-3)

Because parties to the ongoing negotiations concerning the transition from DWSD to GLWA are prohibited by a renewed federal gag order from discussing the details surrounding the lease payment, I submitted a FOIA request to DWSD for copies of exclusively internal records of O&M cost savings in the $10-20 million range, independent of the negotiations.

Last Friday, DWSD denied my request for the reasons that (a) no such record exists,and (b) even if it did exist, its release would be prohibited by the gag order.

It looks to me like DWSD's dissembling continues unabated.  Ironically, media outlets later this month will be celebrating Sunshine Week, extolling the virtues of open government.

I can make a pro forma appeal of the denial to Director McCormick, but we all know how much good that will do.  Sooner or later, somebody in a position of public responsibility will have to challenge in court the gag order and DWSD secrecy and obfuscation.
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