- Associated Press - Monday, February 11, 2019

Lansing State Journal. February 7, 2019

Bob Young Jr.’s contract is yet another misstep for MSU Board

The firing of Bob Young Jr. - MSU’s top attorney and vice president of legal affairs -came as little surprise to many last week, following the forced resignation of interim Michigan State University President John Engler.

What is surprising, or perhaps infuriating is a more accurate sentiment, is that Young will receive the full payout of his contract through May 2021. That’s about $1 million. And another example of mismanagement by the MSU Board of Trustees.

Young was Engler’s choice, hired as vice president and general counsel on June 1. His contract was approved by trustees in a 5-3 vote. It was a contentious choice at the time, as evidenced by the vote.



Among the biggest questions: Why would trustees approve a three-year contract for an employee recommended by an interim president? Did the trustees really expect Young to serve his full three-year term once a new president was hired?

These are the critical decisions the trustees are elected to make.

Three of the trustees who supported Young’s contract - Brian Breslin, Mitch Lyons and George Perles - are no longer on the board. The other two - Joel Ferguson and Melanie Foster - should be held responsible for yet another poor decision.

While Young’s dismissal is being applauded as a move in the right direction for MSU, stakeholders shouldn’t stop asking how the university keeps getting itself in these situations.

Correcting mistakes is an appropriate course of action. Avoiding mistakes that put the university in vulnerable positions would be better.

Read more: MSU fires former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Young Jr.

Read more: Engler’s ouster, appointment of new acting president nets applause

Read more: Interim President John Engler to donate $510K salary back to university

It’s a new day at Michigan State University. The composition and power dynamic of the Board of Trustees is markedly different.

A new president, to be hired in the coming months, will have an opportunity to lead this once-great institution in new directions, with the transparency and inclusivity MSU’s stakeholders deserve.

Young’s dismissal with a $1 million payout feels like one more misstep from university leadership that has routinely failed its constituents.

It’s far past time for the Board of Trustees to focus on asking the pointed questions and making better strategic decisions to allow MSU and those it serves to move forward.

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The Mining Journal. February 5, 2019

Whitmer should have included her office in FOIA change

As a general proposition, we like the things that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her team has accomplished in their first month on the job. But after campaigning on increased transparency in government, Whitmer passed on an opportunity last week to open her office to the same level of legal scrutiny state departments are now subject to.

In the Friday directive, Whitmer said she “absolutely” considered using her power to open the governor’s office to record requests but decided it would be better for the Legislature to send her bills to sign. Lawmakers also are not covered by the state’s 43-year-old Freedom of Information Act, according to The Associated Press.

Whitmer closed loopholes that state officials have used to slow down the FOIA process. It orders the directors of departments and agencies to designate a “transparency liaison” to facilitate record requests and to advocate for disclosure quickly and in a cost-efficient way. Agencies sometimes tell media outlets it will cost thousands of dollars to provide documents, AP reported.

Whitmer said she referred a statute for two reasons: longevity and leverage, AP said.

“I want to make sure that the Legislature is subject to the same level of accountability,” she said. “That’s really important. The sun should shine as brightly on both branches.”

GOP officials lost no time in claiming Whitmer broke a key campaign promise.

Whitmer has said she would act if the state Legislature doesn’t, something she may, in fact, end up doing in the long run.

While we understand as a matter of political strategy why the governor is taking the path that she is, it seems to us the easier and cleaner move here would have been to include her office in the directive and put the matter in the rear view mirror.

This is an issue we plan to follow closely.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. February 6, 2019

A step in the right direction

Momentum. Traction. Whatever you want to call it, there is movement on Michigan’s abysmal accountability practice when it comes to state government.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a directive last week at the Michigan Press Association meeting that:

Requires state agencies to appoint transparency liaisons to process cost-effective Freedom of Information Act requests and public records.

Mandates public notices and records to be uploaded online in a system devised by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Limits time extension requests by state agencies. FOIA requires a 5-day response window, but agencies often use a 10-day extension. Requesters must be given notice of delays.

Prohibits state officials from using electronic communication to conduct business during public meetings.

Urges live streaming public meetings.

This is a healthy step in the right direction - the public needs to know what their state government is doing on their behalf with their dollars.

But there’s more to do. Currently only Michigan and one other state (Massachusetts) allows its Governor to sidestep FOIA, and one of only 8 states to let the Legislature do the same. We’re at the bottom of the class when it comes to most systems that rank integrity and accountability in state government.

It seems fair to say that Whitmer’s actions thus far have earned her the benefit of the doubt in her stated intention to push the Legislature to open up before she follows suit.

Legislative action is stronger than directives, Whitmer said. The people of Michigan deserve strong, decisive open government laws.

Sometimes it takes small, persistent movements to start the stonewall rolling.

We hope Whitmer is the lever, and the Legislature is the weight behind her.

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