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Lawsuit Accuses Michigan AG of Using Personal Email for State Business

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's alleged use of personal email for state business is at the center of a lawsuit filed this week. (billschuette.com)
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's alleged use of personal email for state business is at the center of a lawsuit filed this week. (billschuette.com)
April 12, 2017

LANSING, Mich. - The state's top law-enforcement official is facing legal troubles, with his office accused of violating the Freedom of Information Act.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday comes after the attorney general's office rejected a public-records request for the private email messages of Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and 20 of his staffers. The group Progress Michigan has contended that the private email accounts were used to conduct government business over a six-year period.

Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott said the lawsuit has nothing to do with politics.

"Transparency should not at all be a partisan topic," he said. "Regardless of political affiliation, we should be able to agree that any state business should be conducted in the light of day and not shielded from the public."

The group said it learned through previous FOIA requests that Schuette and at least a dozen staffers had used personal email accounts for official work - and, despite including examples of those emails in the complaint, were told they did not exist. A spokesperson for the AG's office said they are reviewing the lawsuit.

Attorney Mark Brewer said Michigan law is clear: If state employees are using personal email to conduct state business, those messages are subject to public scrutiny.

"So, the question before the court," Brewer said, "is, is the attorney general lying about whether they exist or not, or were they improperly destroyed - or what happened to these emails?"

The use of private email by government officials has been a hot-button topic in recent times, notably Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private server while serving as secretary of state.

Lawsuit and email examples are online at scribd.com.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI