Judge Permits Lawsuit Against Schuette to Move Forward

The state Court of Claims has denied Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by watchdog group Progress Michigan alleging Schuette and a dozen staffers had, for years, used personal email accounts to conduct state business and demanding those emails be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last year, Progress Michigan, using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), discovered nearly two dozen emails showing Schuette and his staffers using personal email accounts to conduct state business. Subsequently, Progress Michigan filed a FOIA request asking for all emails using personal email accounts to conduct state business, which Schuette’s office denied, claiming those documents didn’t exist.

But Progress Michigan already had examples of what they were asking for, and after Schuette’s office denied a subsequent appeal from the organization, Progress Michigan filed suit in April.

Documents related to the lawsuit, including the emails, can be found online.

“We’re very pleased with the court’s ruling and look forward to finally requiring some transparency from Bill Scuette’s office. It’s long overdue,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, in a statement.

The Great Lakes Beacon has also run into the same matter of high-ranking staff using personal emails to discuss state business. Specifically, in this instance, the GLB obtained an email sent by Rusty Hills, Schuette’s senior advisor and former campaign manager, in which Hills discusses the progress of Schuette’s Flint water crisis investigation – a matter of state business.

Schuette’s spokesperson said the memo was public, but GLB’s FOIA showed Bitely communicated with other members of the Department of Attorney General to ask about getting the memo posted online – it wasn’t previously, and thus not public – and to request that where the memo be stored be renamed to “Press Releases, Memos and Reports.”

Bitely added, “That will clear it all up,” and one of the department analysts involved responded to Bitely within an hour to indicate the task was complete.

A court date has not yet been set for Progress Michigan’s lawsuit.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson