AP NEWS

Ludington City Council denies FOIA request

February 15, 2019

The Ludington City Council on Monday affirmed the response of the city’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator, Carlos Alvarado, in regard to resident Tom Rotta’s FOIA request for documents related to Ludington’s city manager search.

Rotta requested to view correspondence documents between city officials and the city manager search facilitator, Jeff Mueller of the Michigan Municipal League (MML), but the city denied his request as a moot point because those documents are already available on the city’s website to Rotta and the public.

Rotta also requested to see the 37 applications for city manager because he claimed the applications were wrongfully deliberated upon in closed session, since not all of the three finalist applications that have been made public show confidentiality requested in writing.

Michigan’s Open Meetings Act does permit public bodies to review employment applications in closed session if the candidates under review requested confidentiality.

The council held a two-hour closed session on Jan. 10 to review the candidates and select the three finalists.

The MML narrowed the pool of candidates down to the top 10 who fit the qualities the council was looking for, and Mueller provided summaries of those candidates to the councilors to review during the closed session. The applications of the other candidates remained in Mueller’s briefcase during the meeting and were not viewed by the council, according to City Attorney Richard Wilson.

“The MML indicated to us that everybody we were going to look at had requested confidentiality,” Wilson said. “I would also point out the Open Meetings Act does not require the request for confidentiality be in writing.”

Wilson said the City of Ludington is unaware how the candidates requested confidentiality, but the council was assured by the MML that the candidates had asked for privacy.

Before the closed session ended, Mueller retrieved the candidate summaries, selection matrix, applications and other documents related to the selection process, so they would not be subject to FOIA, according to Wilson.

Rotta also asked to view the selection matrix and candidate summaries, but the city couldn’t grant his request, Wilson said.

The city does not possess the documents Rotta requested because they are the proprietary property of the MML, and the documents would be exempt from FOIA anyway because they were part of the closed session process that is permitted under the Open Meetings Act, Wilson said.

“The practical point is that we don’t have them to give to Mr. Rotta even if we wanted to. We did ask MML if they would agree to provide those documents, but they said no,” Wilson said.

OTHER BUSINESS

The council designated Acting City Manager Jackie Steckel to assume the additional role of street administrator — who is responsible for overseeing street improvements and operations in the city — until a new city manager is designated for the position.

The council approved the 2019 Ludington Petunia Parade, with its planting day scheduled for May 18.

The council approved Downtown Ludington’s 2019 schedule of events, including St. Patrick’s Day festivities March 16, the Ludington Farmers’ Market to be on Fridays from May 24 to Sept. 20 and many more events.