(The Center Square) – The free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP) is trumpeting its victory in a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the University of Michigan. At issue was the university denying a MCPP FOIA request for pay transparency earlier this year.
Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth L. Gleicher handed down the ruling Monday, which was made public Wednesday.
UM denied part of a January FOIA request seeking “The total gross salaries (base salary, OT, bonuses, etc.) for every employee working in the U-M Office for Institutional Equity for the 2019 and 2020 calendar years.”
MCPP appealed, which UM Special Counsel to the president Liz Barry denied, claiming “salary” is set apart from other forms of compensation such as bonuses and overtime.
UM claimed the request seeking names and salary records were personal information that “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy."
However, UM failed to convince Gleicher of that argument.
“‘Intimate, embarrassing, private, or confidential information is "of a personal nature,’” Gleicher wrote. “Home addresses, birth dates, and telephone numbers generally qualify as information of a personal nature. But the names and salaries of the employees of [a] university are not 'intimate details' of a 'highly personal' nature.”
Gleicher wrote the request fulfilled the purpose of FOIA: for Michiganders to hold accountable spending of taxpayer money.
“Exposure of the University's salary, bonus and overtime pay decisions allows the taxpayers to learn how the people's money was spent, fulfilling the policy objectives of the FOIA,” Gleicher wrote.
MCPP welcomed the ruling.
“Michigan has a freedom of information law to give people the ability to have oversight of the public entities that exist to serve them,” MCPP government and transparency lead Steve Delie said in a statement. “For decades, the Mackinac Center has used this law to uncover scandals, misuse of taxpayer dollars and track the compensation of public employees. It was surprising that the University of Michigan tried to deny the public the ability to get the full salary information of its employees, and we are happy the court upheld the rule of law and transparency in government by ruling in our favor.”
The court ordered UM to provide all employee salary records of the University of Michigan Office of Institutional Equity for the 2019 and 2020 calendar years. MCPP is also entitled to attorney fees and other costs.