Attorney: County Protecting Judge Brennan In Denying FOIA Appeal
March 21, 2018
A local attorney says he is disappointed in the Livingston County Board of Commissioners for allegedly protecting 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan in preventing the release of what he feels is public information.
The board met Monday night and voted to uphold denial of a February 16th FOIA request from Pinckney Attorney Jim Fett, on the basis that court records are not subject to FOIA. Counsel stated the court documents requested are not within their purview or authority to release them and commissioners voted unanimously to deny the appeal. Commissioner Kate Lawrence was absent.
Three things were requested under Fett’s FOIA; the settlement reached in the case of Brennan’s former law clerk Attorney Rory Kiler, a complaint filed by a former employee of Brennan, and emails between Brennan and retired MSP Detective Sean Furlong. He maintains the first two are related to an employee settlement/personnel issues versus judicial records, thus should be released. Fett was not critical of the denial in relation to the records request of email exchanges between Brennan and MSP Detective Sean Furlong.
Fett says the Michigan Supreme Court has already ruled settlements are mandatory disclosures under FOIA and the board is not only protecting Brennan but wasting attorney fees by denying the request – adding they’re preventing disclosure of documents that will ultimately be released anyway later through the discovery process in a federal case he has filed on behalf of 53rd District Court Administrator Francine Zysk.
Fett says as a county taxpayer; he’s entitled to the information and wants it. Fett says his hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit will only cost county taxpayers money because some Lansing attorney told the board they should be withholding the documents. Fett feels that’s bad advice and self-serving advice since the county attorney will be the one to defend the case. He alleges the county attorney is “lining his own pockets” to prevent disclosure of documents that will come out anyway, calling it a waste of money and taxpayer resources.
As for the Rory Kiler case, Fett says the county was faced with exposure from a civil suit and paid him an amount of money they are not willing to disclose at this time, adding as a taxpayer and county resident, he wants to know how much money Brennan cost him. Fett feels it’s a reasonable request, the FOIA should have been granted and he’s very disappointed in the board for continuing to protect Brennan.
County Administrator Ken Hinton and Commission Chairman Don Parker declined comment, saying the full deliberation of the matter by the board is available on the meeting video posted on the county's website. The link is provided. (JM)