4.5-1 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT COMPLIANCE POLICY

Summary 

As provided in Section 1 of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, "It is the public policy of this state that all persons, except those persons incarcerated in state or local correctional facilities, are entitled 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, consistent with this act.  The people shall be informed so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.”1   To that end, all people, excluding prisoners, are allowed to file FOIA requests with Saginaw Valley State University (“SVSU”).  A requester must simply file a request in writing with SVSU’s FOIA Office (or Coordinator), and SVSU will begin processing his or her request.2  
 
SVSU, in its initial response, will do one of the following within the timeframe permitted by the statute: provide the requested documents, provide some of the requested documents while withholding others, withhold all of the requested documents, inform the requester that additional time is needed, require a fee deposit prior to further processing, or inform the requester that the requested record has not been sufficiently described.  If a request is denied or partially denied, SVSU will explain why the documents have not been released and inform the requester of his or her challenge and appeal options. 
 
A fee deposit will be required when processing a request which requires significant SVSU employee time and resources.  SVSU will notify the requester of the estimated cost and provide a non-binding, best efforts estimate of the time it will take to complete the processing of the request.  It is possible that after further processing of the request, SVSU will determine that the cost of processing the request is significantly less or greater than the estimated cost.  If that is the case, SVSU will notify the requester.  After SVSU receives the required deposit, it will make every effort to provide the requested documents within the time estimate provided.  Requesters must understand, however, that at any given time, SVSU is processing multiple requests and cannot devote all of its time to one particular request. 
 
If a requester feels that he or she was wrongly denied responsive documents, he or she may appeal to the President of SVSU or file a civil action.   Requesters are also always free to contact the FOIA Office with any questions about the processing of their requests.  
 

SVSU FOIA Procedures and Guidelines 

1. How to submit a FOIA request to SVSU 
a. A FOIA request must be submitted in writing to the FOIA Office (or Coordinator).  The request may be transmitted in hard copy, by email, or by facsimile.
b. SVSU’s FOIA Office (or Coordinator) address is 7400 Bay Road, University Center, MI  48710.  The email address is FOIA@svsu.edu.  The fax number is 989-790-9221.
c. A request should describe the record(s) sought sufficiently to enable SVSU to find the record(s) and should provide the requester’s contact information.
d. Requests should state that they are submitted pursuant to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
e. Requests received electronically are deemed received the next business day.  A business day is defined as Monday through Friday, exclusive of holidays and institutional closure days.
f. If a request is delivered to the FOIA Office (or Coordinator) junk mail folder, the request will be deemed received one business day after the FOIA Office (or Coordinator) becomes aware of the request.  The FOIA Office (or Coordinator) will check the junk mail folder at least once per week.
 
2. Responses to FOIA requests to SVSU
a. SVSU will respond to a FOIA request within 5 business days of the FOIA Office (or Coordinator) receiving the request.
b. A response will consist of one or more of the following:
i. A release of all of the requested records
ii. A partial release of the requested records, and a partial denial (if some or a portion of the records do not exist, are not in the possession of SVSU, and/or are exempt from disclosure)
iii. A complete denial of records (if all of the records do not exist, are not in the possession of SVSU, and/or are exempt from disclosure)
iv. A notice that more time is needed to process the request
1. If more time is needed, SVSU will send out a follow up response within 10 business days of the initial response.
v. A notice that a fee deposit is required prior to further processing
1. If a fee deposit is required, SVSU will include in its response a non-binding, best efforts estimate regarding the time it will take to provide the records to the requester.
vi. A notice that the record(s) sought has (have) not been sufficiently described to enable SVSU to locate the record(s).
c. The response will state the FOIA exemptions under which any information and/or documents are withheld, if applicable.
d. If there is a denial of records for any reason, the response will set forth the procedures for challenge and/or appeal. 
 
3. Deposit Requirements
a. A fee deposit will be required when the processing of a request will result in fees equal to or greater than $50.00.3   
b. The required deposit will equal up to 50% of the estimated cost of fulfilling the request as calculated at the time of the initial response.
c. If SVSU requires a deposit, it will not process the FOIA request further until the deposit is paid.
d. If, after receipt of the deposit and further processing of the request, SVSU learns that the processing costs will be significantly different from the estimated costs, SVSU will so notify the requester.  Where the actual effort to search for, review and separate exempt material significantly exceeds the original estimate, SVSU will notify the requester.  The requester may choose to receive a revised fee deposit request, or limit his/her original request to those records which may be processed within the time stated in the original fee estimate.
e. A person who makes a FOIA request for which a deposit is required may withdraw that FOIA request without charge instead of paying the required deposit.
f. SVSU will treat multiple concurrent FOIA requests on the same topic(s) and/or regarding the same recordkeeper(s) and from the same person as one FOIA request for purposes of determining whether the fee is below $50.00.
g. In certain circumstances where a requester has not paid the remainder of the fee for processing an earlier request, SVSU may require 100% of the estimated fees for processing a subsequent request prior to processing the subsequent request.
 
4. Calculation of Fees
a. Fees are calculated by adding together the following costs4:
i. The labor costs5 for searching for, locating, and examining responsive records
ii. The labor costs5 for review, separation, and deletion of exempt information from non-exempt information
iii. The cost of non-paper physical media, if used
iv. The cost per copy of paper copies, not to exceed $.10/page for standard 8 ½ x 11 inch paper
v. The labor costs5 directly associated with duplication or publication, which may include copying to non-paper media
vi. The cost of mailing
b. Final fees for responding to a FOIA request will be billed when SVSU responds to the FOIA request.  An invoice will be provided by SVSU with the response.  The amount invoiced must be paid within thirty days.  
c. SVSU reserves the right to require payment in full of all fees incurred in processing a FOIA request before delivering the final, responsive documents.
d. SVSU’s decision to deny access to public records sought by a FOIA request because those records are, in whole or in part, exempt from disclosure does not excuse the person who files that FOIA request from payment of fees for the work undertaken by  SVSU in response to that request.
e. SVSU may waive or reduce the fees it is authorized to charge if it determines that a waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because responding to the FOIA request should be considered as primarily benefiting the general public.
f. Fee reductions or waivers are required in certain instances involving proven indigence or non-profit organizations.  SVSU will apply these reductions or waivers in accordance with the statute. 
 
5. Procedures for Challenge and Appeal 
a. If SVSU denies a request in whole or in part, the requester may:
i. Submit an appeal to the President of SVSU, in writing, via the FOIA Office (or Coordinator), using the contact information listed in Item 1, above.  The appeal must specifically use the word “appeal” and identify the reason(s) the requester seeks reversal of the denial.  The President of SVSU must respond to the appeal within 10 business days by doing one of the following:
1. Reversing the FOIA Officer’s (or Coordinator) decision
2. Upholding the FOIA Officer’s (or Coordinator) decision
3. Reversing in part and upholding in part the FOIA Officer’s (or Coordinator) decision
4. Issuing a notice of extension for not more than 10 additional business days.
ii. Commence a civil action in the Court of Claims within 180 days after the SVSU’s final determination to deny a request.
b. If a requester has questions regarding any FOIA response, including estimated fees or actual fees assessed, the requester should not hesitate to contact the FOIA Office (or Coordinator) by email (FOIA@svsu.edu) or telephone (989-964-4045).
 

 

[1] M.C.L.A. 15.231.

[2] Verbal requests for information are not FOIA requests for purposes of these Procedures and Guidelines.  If a   verbal request for information is received by a SVSU employee who knows that the information is available on SVSU’s website, the employee, where practicable, will inform the requester about SVSU’s website address.

[3] SVSU has determined, consistent with FOIA, that failure to charge fees in situations where the fees would be equal to or greater than $50.00 wouldresult in unreasonably high costs to SVSU.

[4] A copy of the standard form that SVSU uses for fee itemization, with additional explanatory information, is attached to these Procedures and Guidelines.

[5] Labor costs will be estimated and charged in increments of 15 minutes or more, with all partial time increments rounded down.  The labor is charged at the hourly rate of the lowest paid SVSU employee capable of doing the work, plus fringe benefits, if applicable.  If it is not possible for the work to be done by a SVSU employee, SVSU will contract the work out and charge per the provisions of the statute.

Adopted 8/11/97 BC

Revised 7/1/15 PRES

FOIA Fee Estimate Itemization Form (19kB)" class="a-btn red span3 col-lg-12"> FOIA Estimate Form FOIA Fee Estimate Itemization Form FOIA Final Costs Itemization Form (26kB)" class="a-btn red span3 col-lg-12"> FOIA Final Cost Form FOIA Final Costs Itemization Form