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Attorney General leads Freedom of Information Act seminar

Newly elected Dana Nessel holds discussion at the Grand Haven Community Center to answer questions about the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act

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Attorney General leads Freedom of Information Act seminar

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Grand Haven Community Center about the Freedom of Information Act.

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Grand Haven Community Center about the Freedom of Information Act.

Maddie Monroe

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Grand Haven Community Center about the Freedom of Information Act.

Maddie Monroe

Maddie Monroe

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Grand Haven Community Center about the Freedom of Information Act.

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Monday, March 11 the Grand Haven Tribune and Michigan Press Association hosted a seminar at the Grand Haven Community Center for newly elected Attorney General Dana Nessel. The focus of the meeting was for Nessel to speak about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Open Meetings Act (OMA).

This seminar was a part of Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information running from March 10-16.

“Unfortunately these [seminars] fell by the wayside for the last eight years so it is truly an honor for me to restart this tradition,” Nessel said. “It seemed a no better time to do it than during Sunshine Week to remake these seminars and the partnership between our office and the MPA and I am very excited about it.”

With Michigan’s failing integrity grade from the Center of Public Integrity, Nessel wanted to reboot these seminars. Her goal was to make sure people are aware of the rules and requirements of these acts.  

“It is very upsetting to me that Michigan is the only state in the nation where state law exists that exempts the governor, lieutenant governor and the legislature from requirements of the state’s Freedom of Information Act,” Nessel said. “It’s awful. Not only that, but we are one of only eight states that received a failing grade for integrity from the Center of Public Integrity. We are absolutely failing, there’s no question about it.”

Given that the FOIA and OMA both apply greatly to the press, Nessel wanted to emphasize her opinion of the media and ensured that it was a key point of her speech.

 

Maddie Monroe
The Community Center quickly filled up with curious citizens looking forward to having their questions about FOIA and OMA answered

“Elected officials and governmental entities including me, are constantly receiving requests for information and that is appropriate,” Nessel said. “We should be receiving those requests. The media is the public’s watchdog and unlike some others, I do not subscribe to the idea that the media is the enemy of the people. In fact, I believe the media is the people’s best friend, honestly. We deserve as public officials to be under the microscope. The people deserve to know what we are doing and how we are doing it.”

 

However, Nessel’s opinions of the press were not the focus of the meeting. Instead, it was to give an overview of FOIA and OMA and to answer any questions people had about them. Both she and the Assistant Attorney General Thomas Quasarano did just that.

Quasarano has been practicing law for 42 years and working with FOIA for 31.

“I think today went very well, I think that it shows there is a keen interest in the citizenry of these statutes and the participation is a good sign,” Quasarano said. “But I would like to see more young people here. I think because of the way this was presented as an overview of FOIA and OMA, and with the limited amount of time that we had it was very comprehensive and effective.”

While the seminar was cut short, those who attended had many positive things to say about the Attorney General’s speech. Among them was School Board Trustee for Kenowa Hills, Eric-John Szczepaniak.

“As a member of a public body that has to follow all these rules, I wanted to get more in-depth knowledge about making sure we are running meetings correctly,” Szczepaniak said. “I definitely learned a lot. It’s great that these are offered and that it is not far from where I live, so I hope that she does more all over the state.”

Another attendee John Martin, Director of the Loutit District Library also found the seminar to be a positive experience and was glad to have been involved.

“I think what I took away from this is that there seems to be a sincere push from the state government to reach all portions of the state,” Martin said. “It seems to be trying to be inclusive and involve all citizens of our state, regardless of their age or their politics or whatever their background is to get them involved in the political process.”

Before Nessel concluded her speech, she shared the same appreciation for the seminar, thanking those for attending and promising to continue her efforts.

“I really appreciate everyone being here today and for taking such an interest in this,” Nessel said. “I promise throughout my term in office I will be able to answer more and more of your FOIA and OMA related questions. But it has been a great experience so far and I look forward to doing everything that I possibly can in my capacity as Michigan Attorney General to create the most transparent state government as possible.”

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Maddie Monroe, Editor in Chief

Senior Maddie Monroe is entering her third year on staff as Editor-in-Chief. She is excited to see what this year has to bring and to make the paper the...

1 Comment

One Response to “Attorney General leads Freedom of Information Act seminar”

  1. James Stone on March 12th, 2019 8:34 am

    The attorney general would have exemplified transparency by giving her rationale for leaving her lane to sue the president over various federal actions. She was elected to serve Michigan. We have reps that were elected to deal with national issues. Nessel’s radical agenda will ensure her single term in office.

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