About Me

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I currently serve as the mayor of the City of Milan. I feel transparency and open government are important to a thriving democracy. I invite you to post questions or comments ---if you have any ideas about things you'd like me to discuss, relating to the City of Milan, this blog is a great place to exchange ideas. You must include your name, (first and last) and town to have your comments posted here.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Government Transparency: what this means to you

This word, “transparency” has almost become a buzz word.
(BTW, I hate buzz words!)

Transparency in our local Milan city government refers to specific laws under the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. 

The Michigan Freedom of Information Act, a.k.a. FOIA is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public, (you) have access to public records of government bodies at all levels. Here in the City of Milan this means that you have the right to obtain copies of our city government documents and records for your own review.

For example, citizens have a right to review all public documents and records that affect public policy. Examples would include copies of the city budget and audit. All of us have a right to see where and how our tax dollars are being spent. Other examples would include our bills payable and payroll. A good way to know what is “FOIA-worthy” (hey I coined a new buzz word) would be any public records that are paid for with public money, (tax dollars) for some public purpose.
Anyone can request the Milan City Council meeting minutes and agendas through FOIA.

How to use FOIA:

This is very simple. All requests for information must be in writing. Milan City Hall has a quick and easy form for you to fill out to obtain any documents that are covered under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sometimes there is a charge for a FOIA request, if you ask for an amount of material that will be costly to make copies of or labor intensive to find—but the laws are very specific about how much a FOIA request can cost, and the cost is limited so that the request for information is NOT cost prohibitive.

The Michigan Open Meetings Act, a.k.a. OMA requires that governmental meetings be conducted in public, (with certain exceptions.) OMA governs the procedures that the public must be notified of government meetings in advance. For example, before we can have a Milan City Council meeting, we have to “post” the meeting in a public way at least 48 hours before the meeting is held. We put notices in local newspapers and we post notices on the front door of Milan City Hall. We also announce when meetings are held on Cable Channel 22.

In the interest of transparency, our city council meetings are also broadcast on Channel 22, and copies of the meetings are available for check out on DVD at the Milan Public Library. You can also purchase these DVDs from the City of Milan.
We also broadcast our city council work sessions, which are also open to the public so that residents have the opportunity to see the work we do that goes into the decisions we make when we vote at the council meeting.
Posting when and where the meetings will be held gives the public the option of attending the meeting if they want. This also keeps the city council (or any governmental body) from being able to conduct its business in secret.

Here are some great links for more information on FOIA and OMA:

*If clicking on the link does not take you to the page, then try copying and pasting into your search engine window*


  1. Funny this should be mentioned here! I "applied" through the freedom of information act for a copy of a tape recording. It was a conversation between myself and our chief of police. It's been over a month now and I continue to wait patiently. I received an initial acknowledgement of my request stating it was being processed, then only to receive a letter that said due to an "ongoing" investigation I am unable to retain my copy...when is the investigation going to be overwith?...talk about dragging it on...come on now!!

  2. Well, If what you say is true, then perhaps the convo between the chief and I should never have taken place? Where's the transperancy?

  3. Let's try this again...I assume that when you use the word "we" you refer to yourself and the chief...if I am correct, then perhaps the conversation spoken of above should never have taken place, either way, I'd appreciate your response...I wonder how the people of Milan view this blog..."yours" or "public"?

  4. The above resident is expressing some frustration about a delay or denial with her FOIA request. I have explained to her that I will check on this for her on Monday--I suspect that her FOIA may've been delayed or denied because she is requesting information that pertains to an internal personnel investigation. Personnel issues are extremely sensitive and we have to consider the individual's privacy, and we cannot jeopardize his right to a fair disciplinary hearing by making his information public. This is my personal theory on why this happened, but I intend to get some sort of confirmation for her tomorrow.