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Thursday, July 15, 2021

PAC Releases 5th Binding Opinion of 2021

Thanks again to a reader who forwarded a copy of a recent Public Access Counselor (PAC) binding opinion in a FOIA appeal. The Attorney General's website page where public bodies could previously find information about FOIA and OMA, including access to the PAC's electronic training program and PAC binding opinions is still down. 

In PAC Op. 21-005, a requester filed a request for review with the PAC after a municipal police department provided a redacted document in response to a request for employee attendance records. The requester had filed a request seeking records showing the name, star numbers, dates, and type of time off for police officers and employees who requested time off between January 1, 2021 and January 8, 2021 and January 1, 2020 and January 8, 2020. The requester had filed similar requests with other municipal police departments. The police department provided a record, but had redacted all of the substantive data. On appeal to the PAC, the police department justified its redactions by citing to 7(1)(d)(iv), claiming that release of this information could endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel and 7(1)(v), that the information constituted security measures that could jeopardize the safety of personnel if disclosed.

The PAC concluded that neither of the cited exemptions justified redaction of the data that was requested. First, the PAC stated that a basic employee attendance record is not the type of sensitive record that could potentially jeopardize the life or physical safety of police officers or employees. Second, the PAC stated that employee attendance records did not fall within the 7(1)(v) exemption that protects vulnerability assessments, security measures, and response policies. The PAC then directed the police department to release the requested attendance records.


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