Municipal

This summary also appears under Freedom of Information Act

 

Issues: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)(MCL 15.231 et seq.); Amberg v. City of Dearborn; Coblentz v. City of Novi; Whether appellate courts may decide FOIA matters on the basis of information that later becomes available; State News v. Michigan State Univ.; Whether a public body may assert for the first time in the trial court defenses not originally raised at the administrative level; Stone St. Capital, Inc. v. Bureau of State Lottery; Privacy exemption; MCL 15.243(1)(a); Michigan Fed'n of Teachers & Sch. Related Pers., AFT, AFL-CIO v. University of MI; Mager v. Department of State Police; Rataj v. City of Romulus; Detroit Free Press Inc. v. City of Southfield; Clerical-Technical Union v. Board of Trs. of MI State Univ.; Practical Political Consulting v. Secretary of State; Law enforcement exemption; MCL 15.243(1)(s); Statutory construction; Madugula v. Taub; Landry v. City of Dearborn; Spartan Stores, Inc. v. City of Grand Rapids; Whether a reservist police officer (or voluntary police officer) is a law enforcement officer or agent for purposes of FOIA; "Peace officer" defined; People v. Bissonnette; Attorney fees

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)

Case Name: Bitterman v. Village of Oakley

e-Journal Number: 59126

Judge(s): Riordan and Meter; Not Participating - Whitbeck

 

The court held that the trial court erred by granting summary disposition for the defendant-Village because information about donors to its police fund was not exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. It also held that it could not properly resolve the issue of first impression concerning whether police reservists are "law enforcement officers" under the FOIA, and consequently it was premature to fully consider the appropriate attorney fees, costs, and disbursements plaintiff may recover. Thus, it affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for consideration of whether the reservists qualify as law enforcement officers or agents under the FOIA. Plaintiff sued defendant claiming it wrongfully denied her FOIA requests concerning its police reservists and donors to its police fund. The trial court ruled that the donor information was exempt from disclosure under the privacy exemption, and that the reservist information was exempt under the law enforcement exemption. However, it held that the names of inactive police reservists were not exempt under either exemption and ordered disclosure. It also held that defendant did not have to disclose an audio recording of a council meeting as it did not exist at the time of the request. The trial court later issued an injunction prohibiting defendant's police department from operating, which effectively made all reservists inactive. As a result, the city council ordered the release of the names of all police officers and reservists who have served defendant. On appeal, the court first rejected plaintiff's argument that defendant was estopped from raising any new defenses in support of its decision to deny her FOIA requests after it made its "final determination to deny the request," finding it meritless. However, it agreed with her that the trial court erred in finding that the names of the donors were exempt. It held that "the names of the donors are not information of a personal nature, and that, as a result, the privacy exemption in MCL 15.243(1)(a) does not exempt the information from disclosure." Further, even if the names were information of a personal nature, they were still not exempt because they could shed light on defendant's conduct and "serve a core FOIA purpose" as "the record contains evidence to support" plaintiff's suspicions of a "pay to play" scheme, "and those suspicions establish a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the names." The court next held that it could not properly resolve the issue of whether the reservists should be considered law enforcement officers under the FOIA because the record is "devoid of anything concerning the . . . reservists and their powers or duties relating to law enforcement or preserving the peace . . . ." Finally, it agreed with plaintiff that she is entitled to attorney fees, but declined to award them until the issue of whether reservists are law enforcement officers is resolved on remand.

 

Full Text Opinion

This summary also appears under Real Property

 

Issues: Action for a writ of mandamus compelling the defendants to issue a land use permit; "Ripeness"; Lake Angelo Assoc. v. White Lake Twp.; Michigan Chiropractic Council v. Commissioner of the Office of Fin. & Ins. Servs.; Statute providing that when conditions for rezoning are not satisfied "the land shall revert to its former zoning classification"; MCL 125.3405(2); Principle that the rules of statutory interpretation apply to ordinances; In pari materia sections must be read together; Goldstone v. Bloomfield Twp. Pub. Library; Bloomfield Twp. v. Kane; Principle that "persons seeking authority from a governmental unit must exhaust their remedies within such governmental unit before seeking relief in court"; Trojan v. Taylor Twp.; Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning; Agricultural zoning (AG); Zoning Board of Appeal (ZBA)

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: Chestnut Dev. LLC v. Township of Genoa

e-Journal Number: 58918

Judge(s): Per Curiam - M.J. Kelly, Cavanagh, and Meter

 

The court held that the trial court abused its discretion by granting the plaintiff-developer a writ of mandamus compelling the defendants-township and zoning administrator to issue a land use permit. While the court rejected defendants' claim that the zoning classification matter was not ripe, the issue whether plaintiff was entitled to a land use permit to construct a single family home and to enlarge an existing pond on its property was not ripe for adjudication. Thus, it affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. Plaintiff sought a writ of mandamus compelling defendants to issue a land use permit allowing it to construct a single family home. Defendants claimed the matter was not ripe for adjudication and that plaintiff had to comply with its zoning ordinance as a consequence of the property's prior PUD zoning. They also claimed plaintiff actually sought to mine sand from its property to sell, which is only permitted in industrial districts with special land use approval. After several hearings, the trial court eventually granted plaintiff's request for a writ of mandamus and ordered defendants to issue the land use permit. As to defendants' argument that the matter of zoning classification was not ripe, the court found that the zoning agreement entered into between defendants and the prior property owner became void when the prior owner abandoned the development project and the property. "Therefore, the conditional rezoning of the property from AG to PUD was automatically revoked and, at some time before plaintiff purchased the property, the property reverted back to its original zoning classification, AG, by operation of" defendants' ordinance and MCL 125.3405(2). Further, "[a]ll of the information necessary to resolve the issue of zoning classification was available and its resolution was not dependent on any determination by the ZBA." However, the issue of whether plaintiff was entitled to a land use permit to construct a home and to enlarge the pond on its property that is zoned AG was not ripe "because the municipality did not render a final determination regarding the requested use considering the property's AG zoning classification . . . ." Thus, the claim "'rests upon contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or may not occur at all.'"

 

Full Text Opinion
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