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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Wayne State loses public records lawsuit over Flint water crisis documents

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 12:02 PM

click to enlarge Wayne State University. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Wayne State University.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation was awarded $6,000 in attorney’s fees on Tuesday for its public records lawsuit filed against Wayne State University.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2018, was launched on behalf of Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards — one of the whistleblowers in the Flint water crisis — after the university allegedly ignored several of his Freedom of Information Act requests.

The requests sought presentations and emails between university and state employees, after rumors circulated that the $3.35 million state-funded research on Flint water led by WSU was being interfered with.

“This case shows that government institutions, including our public universities, aren’t above the law and cannot stand in the way of complete transparency,” Derk Wilcox, senior attorney with the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said in a statement. “Having an open and transparent government is an essential right.”

On Tuesday, the court sided with Edwards and the Mackinac legal team, and demanded WSU pay nearly $6,000 in legal fees.

"The Mackinac legal team forced Wayne State University to release public documents that were being wrongfully withheld, which shed light on allegations that high-ranking state employees were obstructing justice by interfering with Flint water crisis research at WSU in 2016-2017,” Edwards says in a statement.

Linda Galante, associate general counsel at WSU, says the university did not intentionally ignore the FOIA requests.

“At no time did WSU deliberately ignore FOIA requests from Marc Edwards. Nor did WSU ever wrongfully withhold information requested pursuant to these FOIA requests,” Galante tells Metro Times in a statement. “Thousands of documents were produced to the Plaintiff over a period of time. The vast majority of the documents were provided in August 2018. A few more were provided in November 2018. WSU did produce some of the documents after the initiation of the litigation. This timing of production, however, was not in bad faith, arbitrary, or capricious.”

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