Resolution to Expand Michigan FOIA to Include Governor and Legislature

Resolution of the Executive Committee and Officers
of the 14th Congressional District Republican Party
Passed on 13 April 2021

Expand Michigan FOIA To Include Governor and Legislature

WHEREAS, When you think political corruption and scandals could not worsen, we see it is getting
much worse to where Governor Whitmer and Governor Cuomo's names come to mind as two people
bringing political corruption to a new lower level. See Example One, Two, and Three below identifying
this political corruption and scandalous behavior.

WHEREAS, Michigan has had long-standing issues with public trust in elected officials. It ranked dead
last in accountability and transparency in a 2015 assessment from The Center for Public Integrity.

WHEREAS, The Governor of Michigan, most elected officials and the Michigan Legislature are not
subject to responding to a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request. Basic and effective public trust is
enhanced by transparency of FOIA to systematically prevent and publicly disclose underlying issues.

WHEREAS, Example One: News Article Identifying Governors Lack of Transparency.
USA TODAY Mar. 19, 2021. Did Michigan cover up nursing home COVID deaths like New York?
Steve Delie and Charlie LeDuff, Opinion Contributors (entire article below)
Michigan Governor Whitmer may be in the same trouble that New York Governor Cuomo is
dealing with after covering up COVID deaths.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may not be the only governor who covered up the deaths of vulnerable
senior citizens during the pandemic. We're suing the state of Michigan to release information regarding
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order that funneled nursing home residents hospitalized with COVID19 back into nursing homes – information the state is hiding from the public. Michigan citizens deserve to
know if Gov. Whitmer, like Gov. Cuomo, has hidden the true number of deaths resulting from her
dangerous decision.

Gov. Whitmer issued her order on April 15, 2020, following Gov. Cuomo's similar action on March 25. It
has since come to light that New York authorities, following pressure from the governor's office,
deliberately undercounted the number of patients forced back into nursing homes and the number of
deaths that resulted. The patient numbers were more than 40% higher, while deaths were more than 75%

Cuomo and Whitmer's lack of transparency

The public had a right to know these grim facts, yet it took a five-month-long lawsuit by New York's
Empire Center for Public Policy to discover some of the most important information. Gov. Cuomo simply
wasn't transparent – and neither is the state of Michigan.
Resolution 14th Cong District Gov FOIA Rev 01 2 of 4
Michigan is one of only two states where the governor is exempt from Freedom of Information laws, and
the only state where that exemption is written into statute. Thanks to this exemption, the governor has
no obligation to produce any records whatsoever, despite making decisions affecting the lives of every

Gov. Whitmer has used this veil of secrecy to act with impunity. Her office has almost single-handedly
dictated the state's COVID-19 policies, without disclosing the data she has used to make her decisions.
After the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the statute Gov. Whitmer relied on for her emergency
authority, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services became the vessel for COVID decisionmaking. Yet while that department is subject to FOIA, it has not been any more transparent. The state
continues to release information about the number of cases and deaths but not the underlying records.

This is unacceptable. The state is asking voters to simply accept it's published data, without the chance to
verify the records used to create them. The Cuomo scandal demonstrates how dangerous it is to simply
trust politicians. Access to information is essential to accountability. It's also a basic sign of respect for
voters. Citizens and media outlets shouldn't have to sue to know what their government is doing and why.
That's why we're suing the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. After the state began
adding additional deaths to its daily tally, known as vital records deaths, one of us (Mr. LeDuff) requested
the underlying data of these newly added deaths. This included the age of the deceased, date of death,
when the death was added to the published data, and most importantly, which cases that led to death
originated at a long-term care facility or nursing home.
Michigan citizens deserve to know

While the department could have easily released this data, it claimed the details would reveal protected
health information. Yet records with even more specific data — such as death certificates — are already
available for public purchase, and the department has released some information drawn from these
records already.

The department is basically saying it can release information as it pleases, but ordinary citizens cannot be
trusted with the raw data. Our lawsuit rejects this anti-transparency approach, and asks the courts to
apply our transparency law fairly. If we are successful, the department will be required to release the data
behind Gov. Whitmer's pandemic policies — including the facts involving deaths in nursing homes.
It shouldn't take a lawsuit to obtain this critical data. Gov. Whitmer made the same policy choice as Gov.
Cuomo, forcing contagious senior citizens into close proximity with other medically vulnerable people. In
fact, her policy, a similar version of which is still in effect today, went even farther, forcing some nonsenior patients into nursing homes, including a 20-year-old. Michigan citizens deserve to know why she
did this, and whether our governor is telling the truth about the consequences.
URL to article:

WHEREAS, Example Two: News Article Identifying Governors Lack of Transparency. May 22, 2020. Suspect in beating of Army veteran was already charged with assault when
moved to nursing home By Kimberly Craig (first of many paragraph article below)

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Relatives of 75-year-old Norman Bledsoe tell 7 Action News that they have a
lawyer and intend to file a lawsuit against the Westwood Nursing Center where a 20-year-old
man who had been recovering from COVID-19 is accused of badly beating Bledsoe
Resolution 14th Cong District Gov FOIA Rev 01 3 of 4
URL to article:

WHEREAS, Example Three: News Article Identifying Governors Lack of Transparency. February 1, 2019. Governor tightens Michigan FOIA rules, except for her office By
DAVID EGGERT (first six of ten paragraph of article below)

New Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a directive making it easier to obtain public
documents from state departments but stopped short of taking the same action for her own
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- New Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a directive Friday aimed
at making it easier to obtain public documents from state departments but stopped short of
taking the same action for the governor's office, one of just two nationwide wholly exempt from
open-records laws.

The Democratic governor 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.

Massachusetts is the only other state to wholly exempt the governor's office, and Michigan is
among eight states where the Legislature is explicitly exempt. Those exemptions were factors in
Michigan receiving an "F'' grade on transparency and accountability in 2015 as part of a 50-state
analysis done by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit
investigative journalism organization.

Whitmer told reporters, editors and legislators gathered for the Michigan Press Association's
annual luncheon in Grand Rapids that she preferred a statute for two reasons: longevity and

"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."
The Michigan Republican Party accused Whitmer of "breaking a major campaign promise" by
not voluntarily opening her office to record requests. In the campaign, she pledged to do so "if
the Legislature won't act" — prompting GOP spokesman Tony Zammit to call her campaign
"nothing more than rhetoric." Lawmakers have not yet started voting on legislation in the new
two-year session, however.
URL to article:

THEREFORE IT IS RESOLVED that the 14th District Executive Committee supports government
transparency and the meaningful expansion of Michigan's FOIA policies to include the Governor, all
elected state office holders, all major public sector department heads and Legislature;
Resolution 14th Cong District Gov FOIA Rev 01 4 of 4

IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED that the 14th District Executive Committee requests the Michigan Republican
Party pass a similar resolution strongly requesting that the Michigan Republican House and Senate
expand Michigan's FOIA policies to include the Governor, all elected state office holders, all major public
sector department heads and Legislature.

Approved by the 14th District Executive Committee by a majority vote on 13 April 2021

William J. Rauwerdink
Chairman, 14th Congressional District
Republican Committee