Whitmer should have included her office in FOIA change

As a general proposition, we like the things that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her team has accomplished in their first month on the job. But after campaigning on increased transparency in government, Whitmer passed on an opportunity last week to open her office to the same level of legal scrutiny state departments are now subject to.

In the Friday directive, Whitmer said she “absolutely” considered using her power to open the governor’s office to record requests but decided it would be better for the Legislature to send her bills to sign. Lawmakers also are not covered by the state’s 43-year-old Freedom of Information Act, according to The Associated Press.

Whitmer closed loopholes that state officials have used to slow down the FOIA process. It orders the directors of departments and agencies to designate a “transparency liaison” to facilitate record requests and to advocate for disclosure quickly and in a cost-efficient way. Agencies sometimes tell media outlets it will cost thousands of dollars to provide documents, AP reported.

Whitmer said she referred a statute for two reasons: longevity and leverage, AP said.

“I want to make sure that the Legislature is subject to the same level of accountability,” she said. “That’s really important. The sun should shine as brightly on both branches.”

GOP officials lost no time in claiming Whitmer broke a key campaign promise.

Whitmer has said she would act if the state Legislature doesn’t, something she may, in fact, end up doing in the long run.

While we understand as a matter of political strategy why the governor is taking the path that she is, it seems to us the easier and cleaner move here would have been to include her office in the directive and put the matter in the rear view mirror.

This is an issue we plan to follow closely.


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