Ruling issued in Iron County FOIA case
By NIKKI YOUNK
CRYSTAL FALLS – A resolution has been reached in the case of an Iron County Medical Care Facility (ICMCF) resident who filed a civil lawsuit against the facility, alleging that it had not lawfully complied with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Enacted federally in 1966, FOIA allows citizens to obtain access to public records with some exceptions. The state of Michigan passed its own version of FOIA in 1976.
ICMCF’s attorney Kenneth Lane had claimed that resident Patrick Ward’s prolific FOIA requests to the facility, which amounted to about one per day, were “overly broad” and “overly burdensome.” As a result, he advised ICMCF to discontinue responding to the requests.
Ward and his attorney Torger Omdahl had contended that such an action placed ICMCF in violation of FOIA.
Both parties have since reached a resolution, and Judge Richard Celello signed an order to that effect this week.
According to the court documents, ICMCF has agreed to process Ward’s FOIA requests. Ward will voluntarily limit his requests to no more than three per week or 12 per calendar month.
In addition, ICMCF will have to pay $7,500 in legal fees to Omdahl.
The order also stipulates that the resolution “is not and shall not be construed as an admission by any party of any fault, wrongdoing, violation of law, ordinance, policy, or similar matters.”
Back in March, the parties had met in Iron County Trial Court for a hearing on the matter.
At that time, Judge Celello determined that ICMCF’s “overly burdensome” defense was not valid. He felt that only a court, and not ICMCF itself, could determine what constitutes “overly burdensome.”
Judge Celello then directed Omdahl to establish that Ward sufficiently identified the documents he wanted in his requests and that the documents did indeed exist.
Ward’s FOIA requests to ICMCF asked for information related to ICMCF Administrator Chester Pintarelli’s salary, fringe benefits, payroll information, checks, and other employment contracts.
Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.