Thursday, August 6, 2015

Open FOIA Appeal to OCWRC

In May and June of last year, I visited dozens of construction sites in a number of Oakland County communities and took photos.  Contractors at many of those sites had not applied any erosion control methods or had not maintained those that had been installed (mostly silt fence), contrary to state and federal water quality laws.  I saw dried mud leading from construction sites to the street and city sewers.

I reported what I had seen to city officials and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).  In those communities where the erosion control enforcement agency was the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner (OCWRC), MDEQ asked OCWRC to investigate and report back.  There are indications that didn’t happen.  One of my inquiries into the matter is described below.
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Jim Nash, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner:

This is an appeal of your FOIA coordinator’s denial of my FOIA request dated July 30, 2015, viz:
Pursuant to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, please furnish me with electronic copies of:

  1. the chicken scratch handed by OCWRC’s Don (presumably Houston) to OCWRC’s Joseph (or Joe) Gardner, referred to in Gardner’s email of July 10, 2014 to Cheryl Petroski-Wilson of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Southeast Michigan District Office, which states, “Yes I did and Don had a chicken scratch that he handed me. I told him to clean it up so I could understand it, then give it back to me. I will get you our findings when he comes in this afternoon. Sorry I forgot about it.”
  2. the cleaned up version.

I think I can prove that representatives of your office have been dodging OCWRC’s responsibilities as County Enforcement Agency (CEA) under soil erosion control laws and rules, rendering those laws and rules useless, permitting soil erosion, turbidity and sedimentation of lakes and streams within various International Joint Commission (IJC) Areas of Concern (AOCs) during combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

Furthermore, in denying me access under FOIA to records in your office that will substantiate my findings and conclusions, your FOIA coordinator relies on a non-specific, undifferentiated array of possible reasons for the denial, violating the purpose, letter and spirit of the statute.  

Her denial begins, “The information you requested...either does not exist, is not maintained by this office, or is exempt from disclosure, therefore your request is denied.”

Denial of a FOIA request in such a manner is vague, obscure, arbitrary and capricious, contrary to the intent of the Act.

Therefore, I urge under the strongest terms that you (1) disaffirm the coordinator’s denial, (2) furnish me with the precise justification for the denial, and (3) upon further inquiry on your part, provide me with the records sought in my original request.

-- Jim Lang

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