Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Henry Ford College (HFC) recognizes its responsibility to maintain the public records of HFC and make them available to the public, as requested and, as required by The Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [July 1, 2015].

Overview

What is The Michigan Freedom of Information Act?

In 1976, the Michigan State Legislature enacted the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Public Act 442. The purpose of FOIA is to allow all persons (except those incarcerated in state or local correctional facilities) access to “full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees... so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.” MCLA 15.231§1(2). FOIA establishes and regulates procedures for the disclosure of public records by all “public bodies” (including state agencies, counties and other local governments, school boards, other boards, departments, commissions, councils, and community colleges and public universities).

What Records Are Obtainable Under FOIA?

Public Records that are defined as writings prepared, owned, used by or in the possession of or retained by a public body in the performance of an official function from the time it is created are obtainable with certain exceptions.

Examples of Obtainable Public Records Without Limitation Include:

  • Minutes of open meetings;
  • Officials’ voting records;
  • Staff manuals;
  • Final orders or decisions in contested cases and the records on which they were made;
  • Promulgated rules; and
  • Other written statements which implement or interpret laws, rules or policies, including:
    • Guidelines;
    • Manuals; and
    • Forms with instructions adopted or used by HFC in the discharge of its functions.

What Documents and Information Are Not Obtainable under FOIA?

Examples of Items Not Obtainable Under FOIA Include Without Limitation:

  • Minutes of closed meetings and
  • Documents protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Social Security Privacy Act, Bullard-Plawecki Act.

Additional Definitions Include:

  • EXEMPT: Records that do not need to be disclosed.
  • NON-EXEMPT: Records that must be disclosed.
  • DISCLOSE: Providing public records to the requesting party.
  • REDACT: To obscure or remove exempt text/information from a public record;
  • WRITINGS: Broadly construed, e.g., handwriting, typewriting, emails, photographs, audio/video and all means of recording.
  • EMAIL COMMUNICATIONS: Text messages or any form of electronically stored information.
    • Generally, email communication is subject to disclosure, unless it fits within FOIA’s narrow exemptions.
    • An employee’s personal emails do NOT constitute public records under FOIA. However, the emails can become public records and subject to FOIA when the emails are the basis for an employer’s allegation that the employee violated its acceptable use policy. The use of the email is related to one of the employer’s official functions (i.e., employee discipline).
    • HFC informs its users via their website (Policy 6800) that social media users are responsible for complying with applicable federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies. This includes adherence to established laws and policies regarding copyright, records retention, and FOIA, First Amendment, and privacy laws, including FERPA and the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Go to https://policies.hfcc.edu/policy/6800.

FOIA Forms

Public Summary of FOIA Procedures and Guidelines and How to Submit a FOIA Request to HFC

Consistent with the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Public Act 442 of 1976, the following is the Written Public Summary of HFC's FOIA Procedures and Guidelines relevant to the general public.

1. How do I submit a FOIA request to HFC?

  • Requests to inspect or obtain copies of public records prepared, owned, used, possessed or retained by HFC may be submitted on HFC's FOIA Request Form, in any other form of writing (letter, fax, email, etc.), or by verbal request.
    • Any verbal request will be documented by HFC on HFC's FOIA Request Form.
    • No specific form to submit a written request is required. However, a FOIA Request Form and other FOIA-related forms are available for your use and convenience on this page and at HFC's Office of General Counsel.
  • Written requests may be delivered to HFC in person or by mail to:

    Designated FOIA Coordinator
    General Counsel, Vice President of Legal Services
    Henry Ford College
    5101 Evergreen Road
    Dearborn, MI 48128

  • Requests may be faxed to 313-845-9675. To ensure a prompt response, faxed requests should contain the term “FOIA” or “FOIA Request” on the first/cover page.

  • Requests may be emailed to: hfcfoia@hfcc.edu. To ensure a prompt response, email requests should contain the term “FOIA” or “FOIA Request” in the subject line.
  • A request must sufficiently describe a public record so as to enable HFC to find it.
  • Please include the words “FOIA” or “FOIA Request” in the request to assist HFC in providing a prompt response.

2. What kind of response can I expect to my request?

  • Within five (5) business days after receiving a FOIA request, HFC will issue a response. If a request is received by fax or email, the request is deemed to have been received on the following business day. HFC will respond to your request in one of the following ways:
    • Grant the request;
    • Issue a written notice denying the request;
    • Grant the request in part and issue a written notice denying in part the request;
    • Issue a notice indicating that due to the nature of the request HFC needs an additional 10 business days to respond;
    • Issue a written notice indicating that the public record requested is available at no charge on HFC’s website; or
    • Issue a written notice denying a request for a public record in whole or in part. The written notice shall contain:
      • An explanation of the basis under this act or other statute for the determination that the public record, or portion of the public record, is exempt from disclosure, if that is the reason for denying all or a portion of the request;
      • A certificate that the public body does not exist under the name given by the requester or by another name reasonably known to the public body, if that is the reason for denying the request or a portion of the request;
      • A description of public record or information on a public record that is separated or deleted, if a separation or deletion is made;
      • A full explanation of the requester's right to do either of the following: (i) submit to the head of HFC a written appeal that specifically states the word “appeal” and identifies the reason or reasons for reversal of the disclosure denial or (ii) seek judicial review of the denial;
      • Notice of the right to receive attorneys’ fees and damages as provided by FOIA, if after judicial review, the court determines that HFC has not complied with this section and orders disclosure of all or a portion of a public record.
    • If HFC issues a notice extending the period for a response to the request, the notice shall specify the reasons for the extension and the date by which HFC will do one (1) of the following:
      • Grant the request;
      • Issue a written notice to the requesting person denying the request; or
      • Grant the request in part and issue a written notice to the requesting person denying the request in part.
  • If the request is granted, or granted in part, HFC will ask that payment be made for the allowable fees associated with responding to the request before the public record is made available.
  • If the cost of processing the request is expected to exceed $50, or if you have not paid for a previously granted request, HFC will require a deposit before processing the request.
  • A failure by HFC to respond to a request constitutes a denial of a request if:
    • The failure was willful and intentional or
    • The written request included language that conveyed a request for information within the first 250 words of the body of a letter, facsimile, electronic mail, or electronic mail attachment, or specifically included the words, characters, or abbreviations for “freedom of information”, “FOIA,” “copy”, or a recognizable misspelling of such, or appropriate legal code reference to this act, on the front of an envelope or in the subject line of an electronic mail, letter, or facsimile cover page.

3. Is there a processing fee for documents?

  • Generally there is a processing fee based on actual cost;
  • A deposit may be required;
  • If documents are available on HFC's website, the FOIA coordinator will notify you in writing with the reference to the website address. There is no fee associated with this service.

4. What are HFC's deposit requirements?

  • If HFC has made a good faith calculation that the total fee for processing the request will exceed $50, HFC will require that you provide a deposit in the amount of 50% of the total estimated fee. When HFC requests the deposit, it will provide you a non-binding best efforts estimate of how long it will take to process the request after you have paid your deposit.
  • If HFC receives a request from a person who has not paid HFC for copies of public records made in fulfillment of a previously granted written request, HFC will require a deposit of 100% of the estimated processing fee before it begins to search for the public record for any subsequent written request when all of the following conditions exist:
    • The final fee for the prior written request is not more than 105% of the estimated fee;
    • The public records made available contained the information sought in the prior written request and remain in HFC's possession;
    • The public records were made available to the individual, subject to payment, within the best effort time frame estimated by HFC to provide the records;
    • Ninety (90) days have passed since HFC notified the individual in writing that the public records were available for pickup or mailing;
    • The individual is unable to show proof of prior payment to HFC; and
    • HFC has calculated an estimated detailed itemization that is the basis for the current written request’s increased fee deposit.
  • HFC will not require the 100% estimated fee deposit if any of the following apply:
    • The person making the request is able to show proof of prior payment in full to HFC;
    • HFC is subsequently paid in full for all applicable prior written requests; or
    • Three hundred sixty five (365) days have passed since the person made the request for which full payment was not remitted to HFC.

5. How does HFC calculate FOIA processing fees?

The Michigan FOIA statute permits HFC to charge for the following costs associated with processing a request:

  • Labor costs associated with copying or duplication, which includes making paper copies, making digital copies, or transferring digital public records to non-paper physical media or through the Internet or other electronic means as stipulated by the requester.
  • Labor costs associated with searching for, locating and examining a requested public record, when failure to charge a fee will result in unreasonably high costs to HFC.
  • Labor costs associated with a review of a record to separate and delete information exempt from disclosure (including the cost for contracted labor), when failure to charge a fee will result in unreasonably high costs to HFC.
  • The cost of copying or duplication, not including labor, of paper copies of public records. This may include the cost for copies of records already on HFC's website if you ask for HFC to make copies.
  • The cost of computer discs, computer tapes or other digital or similar media when the requester asks for records in non-paper physical media. This may include the cost for copies of records already on HFC’s website if you ask HFC to make copies.
  • The cost to mail or send a public record to a requestor.

Labor Costs

  • All labor costs will be estimated and charged in 15-minute increments, with all partial time increments rounded down. If the time involved is less than 15 minutes, there will be no charge.
  • Labor costs will be charged at the hourly wage of the lowest-paid HFC employee capable of doing the work in the specific fee category, regardless of who actually performs work.
  • Labor costs will also include a charge to cover or partially cover the cost of fringe benefits. College may add up to 50% to the applicable labor charge amount to cover or partially cover the cost of fringe benefits, but in no case may it exceed the actual cost of fringe benefits.
  • Overtime wages will not be included in labor costs unless agreed to by the requester; overtime costs will not be used to calculate the fringe benefit cost.
  • Contracted labor costs will be charged at the hourly rate of $48.90 (6 times the state minimum hourly wage)
  • A labor cost will not be charged for the search, examination, review and the deletion and separation of exempt from nonexempt information unless failure to charge a fee would result in unreasonably high costs to HFC. Costs are unreasonably high when they are excessive and beyond the normal or usual amount for those services compared to HFC's usual FOIA requests, because of the nature of the request in the particular instance. HFC must specifically identify the nature of the unreasonably high costs in writing.
  • Labor costs will be reduced by 5% for each day the College exceeds the time required to respond as required by FOIA, up to a maximum 50% reduction if (i) the late response was willful and intentional, or (ii) the written request included language that conveyed a request for information within the first 250 words of the body of a letter, facsimile, electronic mail, or electronic mail attachment, or specifically included the words, characters, or abbreviations for “freedom of information”, “information”, “FOIA”, “copy”, or recognizable misspelling of such, or appropriate legal code reference for this act, on the front of an envelope, or in the subject line of an electronic mail, letter, or facsimile cover page.

Copying and Duplication

HFC must use the most economical method for making copies of public records, including using double-sided printing, if it is cost-saving and available.

Non-Paper Copies on Physical Media

  • The cost for records provided on non-paper physical media, such as computer discs, computer tapes or other digital or similar media will be at the actual and most reasonably economical cost for the non-paper media.
  • This cost will be charged only if HFC has the technological capability necessary to provide the public record in the requested non-paper physical media format.

Paper Copies

  • Paper copies of public records made on standard letter (8 ½ x 11) or legal (8 ½ x 14) sized paper will not exceed $0.10 per sheet of paper.
  • Copies for non-standard sized sheets of paper will reflect the actual cost of reproduction.

Mailing Costs

  • The cost to mail public records will be by a reasonably economical and justified means.
  • HFC may charge for the least expensive form of postal delivery confirmation.
  • No cost will be made for expedited shipping or insurance unless you request it.

Waiver of Fees

The cost of the search for and copying of a public record may be waived or reduced if in the sole judgment of the FOIA Coordinator a waiver or reduced fee is in the public interest because it can be considered as primarily benefiting the general public. The HFC Board of Trustees may identify specific records or types of records it deems should be made available for no charge or at a reduced cost.

6. How do I qualify for an indigence discount on the fee?

HFC will discount the first $20 of fees for a request if you submit an affidavit stating that you are:

  • Indigent and receiving specific public assistance; or
  • If not receiving public assistance, stating facts demonstrating an inability to pay because of indigence.

You are not eligible to receive the $20 discount if you:

  • Have previously received discounted copies of public records from HFC twice during the calendar year; or
  • Are requesting information on behalf of other persons who are offering or providing payment to you to make the request.

An affidavit is a sworn statement. For your convenience, HFC has provided an Affidavit of Indigence for the waiver of FOIA fees on the back of the HFC FOIA Request Form, which is available on this web page.

7. May a nonprofit organization receive a discount on the fee?

A nonprofit organization advocating for developmentally disabled or mentally ill individuals that is formally designated by the state to carry out activities under subtitle C of the Federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, Public Law 106-402, and the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act, Public Law 99-319, may receive a $20 discount if the request meets all of the following requirements in the Act:

  • Is made directly on behalf of the organization or its clients;
  • Is made for a reason wholly consistent with the mission and provisions of those laws under section 931 of the Mental Health Code, 1974 PA 258, MCL 330.1931; and
  • Is accompanied by documentation of its designation by the state, if requested by the public body.

8. How may I challenge the denial of a public record or an excessive fee?

Appeal of a Denial of a Public Record

If HFC makes a final determination to deny all or a portion of your request, you may do one (1) of the following at your option:

  • Submit to the HFC Board of Trustees a written appeal that states the word “appeal” and identifies the reason(s) you believe the denial should be reversed. You may use the HFC FOIA Appeal Form which is available on this page. Appeals to the Board of Trustees may be submitted in person, via fax to 313-845-9674, via email at hfcfoia@hfcc.edu, or to the following address:

    The Henry Ford College Board of Trustees
    c/o The Office of the President
    5101 Evergreen Rd.
    Dearborn, MI 48128

    OR

  • Commence a civil action in Wayne County Circuit Court to compel HFC to disclose the records. The suit must be filed within 180 days after HFC's final determination to deny a request.

  • If you submit an appeal to the HFC Board of Trustees, The Board of Trustees will, within 10 business days of receiving the appeal, respond in writing by:
    • Reversing the disclosure denial;
    • Upholding the disclosure denial;
    • Reverse the disclosure denial in part and uphold the disclosure denial in part; or
    • Issue a notice extending, for not more than 10 business days, the period during which the Board of Trustees will respond to the written appeal if unusual circumstances exist.

Your written appeal to the HFC Board of Trustees will not be considered received until the first regularly scheduled meeting following your submission of the appeal.

If the HFC Board of Trustees fails to respond to a written appeal in a timely fashion or upholds all or a portion of the disclosure denial, you may seek judicial review of the nondisclosure by commencing a civil action, within 180 days after the Board of Trustees’ written final denial.

If you prevail in a civil action against HFC, the court may order HFC to produce all or part of a public record(s) wrongfully withheld, and the court shall award reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and disbursements.

If the court determines that HFC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in refusing to disclose or provide a public record, the court may award you damages in the amount of $1,000.

Appeal of an Excess FOIA Processing Fee

If you believe that the fee charged by HFC to process your FOIA request exceeds the amount permitted by state law, you must first appeal to the HFC Board of Trustees by filing a written appeal for a fee reduction to the Office of the President at HFC.

The appeal must specifically state the word “appeal” and identify how the required fee exceeds the amount permitted. You may use HFC's “FOIA Appeal Form-To Appeal an Excess Fee," which is available at the HFC Office of the General Counsel and on this web page.

Within 10 business days after receiving the appeal, the HFC Board of Trustees will respond in writing by either:

  • Waiving the fee;
  • Reducing the fee and issue a written determination indicating the specific basis that supports the remaining fee;
  • Upholding the fee and issue a written determination indicating the specific basis that supports the required fee; or
  • Issuing a notice detailing the reason or reasons for extending for not more than 10 business days the period during which the HFC Board of Trustees will respond to the written appeal.

Your appeal will not be considered received by the HFC Board of Trustees until the first regularly scheduled meeting following submission of your written appeal.

Within 45 days after receiving notice of the HFC Board of Trustees’ determination of the processing fee appeal, you may commence a civil action in Wayne County Circuit Court for a fee reduction. If you prevail in the civil action by receiving a reduction of 50% or more of the total fee, the court may award all or an appropriate amount of reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and disbursements.

If the court determines that HFC acted arbitrarily and capriciously by charging an excessive fee, the court may also award you punitive damages in the amount of $500. HFC is not obligated to complete processing of your written request for the records at issue until the court resolves the fee dispute.