Greenville City Council adopts new FOIA policy

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 9:32 pm on Friday, May 09, 2014

Greenville City Manager George Bosanic, left, said legislation currently making its way through state congress could mean lower costs for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and would also force municipalities to adopt their own policies, so the city went ahead and did it on its own. Also pictured is Mayor John Hoppough. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

GREENVILLE — The Greenville City Council adopted a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy Tuesday in an attempt to jump ahead of likely requirements by the state.

City Manager George Bosanic said legislation currently making its way through the state legislature could mean lower costs for requests and force municipalities to adopt their own policies, so the city went ahead and did it on its own.

“I kind of want to get out in front of it,” Bosanic told the council, which unanimously adopted the three-page policy. “I think it would be helpful to have it all in one document well in advance of when the legislation passes.”

The document details step-by-step the procedure the FOIA coordinator must follow when a request is made. It mostly follows FOIA requirements. Each day the city goes over the deadline for response, the cost of the request is decreased by 20 percent.

“These items that are on here were prepared by our legal counsel,” Bosanic said.

Bosanic added that the city process two or three FOIA requests a day and most go through without a hitch.

“If there is a request that is unusual, or something we don’t see every day, then I will seek our legal counsel,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of our requests go without an incident.”

Having a formal policy will help expedite the process and protect the city. Bosanic said past issues, such as a FOIA-related lawsuit with Eureka Township, are part of the reason the state is looking at the policy.

“That is a classic example of why the law is being tightened up,” he said. “That is the kind of behavior they don’t want to see occur.”

According to Bosanic, among the changes likely to come would be a decrease the cost per page from 15 cents to 10 cents, but the city’s policy is mostly formalizing the procedure the city already uses.

In other business, the council approved a list of items for accomplishment for the next fiscal year. Council members previously developed the items during a work session in March.

Without delving too far into each topic and instead deciding whether it was something they hoped to consider in the 2014-2015 fiscal year for the city, officials settled on more than two dozen potential projects.

“It’s goal-setting, a very simplistic way to say ‘Hey, what do you want to get done this year?’” Bosanic said. “We do this at this time of the year so staff can prepare.”

From road and sidewalk projects to organizing community events, officials spent around two hours discussing the direction of the city.

One of the primary topics of discussion was economic development and the continuance of a potential plan for a partnership between the Montcalm Alliance, which represents Montcalm County, and The Right Place, a West Michigan economic development organization.

“The council did take a great deal of time to come up with this,” Mayor John Hoppough said.

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