(The Center Square) – The Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Committee (MICRC) is under fire after it still hasn’t released legal memos discussed in a controversial closed-door session nearly a month ago.
The MICRC has rejected a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from conservative group Michigan Rising Action (MRA), despite an opinion from Attorney General Dana Nessel that it “must” release the memos.
Transparency was a goal when Michiganders voted in 2018 to create the MICRC. Fed up by in-power politicians picking their voters and drawing maps behind closed doors, a process commonly called gerrymandering, the MICRC claimed to be a solution to help residents transparently voice political maps for the next decade.
But now, several people criticize a lack of transparency as Michiganders have been waiting for nearly a month in what should have been an open meeting, according to Nessel’s opinion.
“The people of Michigan voted for an open and transparent approach to redistricting, instead we have a Commission in open violation of the Constitution,” MRA Executive Director Eric Ventimiglia said in a Tuesday statement. “For over a year this Commission has progressively made it harder to participate in the process and increasingly more secretive. The people of Michigan deserve to know what the committee is hiding.”
MIGOP Communications Director Gustavo Portela also attacked the decision.
“This commission continues to spit in the face of Michiganders by avoiding transparency and accountability,” Portela said in a statement. “The voters were sold a bill of goods and this commission has yet to meet their part, going as far as defying a ruling from the Attorney General. Michiganders were promised transparency and accountability and the commission should deliver on that promise.”
Despite the Constitution mandating “The commission shall conduct all of its business at open meetings,” the MICRC held a closed-door session to discuss two legal memos. It’s still unclear what commissioners discussed behind closed doors.
"The commission's efforts are of grave importance to the citizens of this state, and they should be undertaken in public and under the observation of Michigan's press and other concerned observers," The Detroit News Publisher Gary Miles said in a letter.
MICRC spokesman Edward Woods III told The Center Square in an email that they plan to decide whether to release the memos or not on Dec. 2.
“The Commission speaks as one voice when it went into Closed Session to review the attorney-client privilege memos,” Woods wrote. “Please note the keyword and the basis for the AG’s Opinion is a presumption. In addition, the AG’s Opinion did not call for its immediate release. The Commission will meet in an Open Session to consider the AG’s Opinion and render a decision Thursday, Dec. 2 as one voice.”