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I-Team Uncovers Documents Regarding Lawsuit Against State Ag's Office


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NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Newschannel 3 I-Team has uncovered court documents indicating Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is being sued by a local woman.

The complaint alleges that Schuette's staff members broke the law by not providing public documents in a timely manner under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act is all about transparency, allowing everybody a chance to see what government is doing.

But a local woman trying to use it to learn the truth says the state's top lawyer isn't following the law.

Sincerely Yours... Attorney General for the State of Michigan.

That's the signature on a pamphlet written in 2007 by the then Attorney General regarding, of all things, the Freedom of Information Act.

A quote from the pamphlet: "I encourage you to know your rights."

It's essentially a guidebook for people to know how they can get public records.

It's clear Rebecca Baker from Kent County, through her lawsuit filed this week, frankly doesn't think Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette is following his office's own guidebook.

From her lawsuit, quote: "By failing to turn over documents to plaintiff for well over a month, at minimum, after receiving a FOIA request, defendant (the Department of Attorney General) has violated Michigan FOIA law."

Baker wrote in her lawsuit that she filed the records request in late April, got a response from Bill Schuette's office granting her request in early May.

The request hasn't been fulfilled as of now.

Generally, Michigan law allows  for a five day wait period and then a ten-day extension if the public entity asks for it.

In this case, Baker says in her lawsuit that the state's Attorney General has blown through the time allotted and never asked for an extension.

Baker's attorney on this is Don Visser. He wrote to us: 

"…one would think that the Attorney General's office would be the last party that needed to be sued to gain compliance with FOIA."

We inquired with Schuette's office Wednesday about the case.

A statement sent to us by his spokesperson Joy Yearout said: 

"We have complied with state law. I have no additional comment for the record at this time."

Baker's information request asked for documents related to a case the I-Team has followed for months: The alleged improper prosecution of attorney Donovan Visser in Van Buren County.

This video the I-Team obtained showed Visser trying to execute a repossession at a local company.

The video does not show Visser assaulting anybody at the company, yet he was charged by Van Buren County Prosecutors with assault.

Visser was tried in Paw Paw and the case ended in a hung jury.

Van Buren County Prosecutor Mike Bedford then decided to try the case again, but because of an ongoing federal lawsuit against Bedford's office related to the case, the state Attorney General was asked to get involved in any further prosecution.

The AG's office picked the case up and tried Visser again.

A jury exonerated him of wrong-doing after less than 15 minutes of deliberation.

Now, Baker is seeking the documents from the Attorney General to see if the transfer of the case from the Van Buren County Prosecutor to the Attorney General was legal, and that Visser's rights weren't violated.

Ironically, the Attorney General's office over the years has written many opinions regarding the Freedom of Information Act, often clarifying what the law means for everybody else.



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