Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 21, 2011

Local man given records requested under FOIA

Prosecutors 'were mistaken'


KALKASKA — Kalkaska County Prosecutor Brian Donnelly will turn over documents to settle a local man's Michigan Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Donnelly and Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald J. Frantz were the only two of Michigan's 83 county prosecutors who refused to turn over documents requested under FOIA by Traverse City resident Eric VanDussen. VanDussen wanted police reports, search warrants, charging papers and other documents tied to medical marijuana cases handled in each county.

Multiple prosecutors told VanDussen he'd have to pay hefty sums for records to be gathered and copied, but Donnelly and Frantz were the only ones to reject his request, VanDussen said.

So he filed a lawsuit against both, and both agreed to give him what he wants.

"Obviously, when they argued that they didn't have to give me anything, they were mistaken," VanDussen said.

Donnelly and Frantz didn't return calls for comment.

Separate settlement agreements with both prosecutors dictate that documents be turned over to VanDussen at no cost. Frantz' office already provided VanDussen more than 700 pages of documents, VanDussen said, and Donnelly has until the middle of June to provide his records.

Donnelly must identify in writing all documents he withheld or redacted due to FOIA exemptions.

VanDussen is upset the documents weren't just turned over in the first place.

"Why did it have to take me filing a lawsuit to do that?" he said. "It's public record, and it shouldn't take a citizen having to sue them."

VanDussen, formerly of Benzie County, is a familiar face in local court systems. He's covered multiple cases as a freelance journalist, and he successfully sued Benzie County a few years ago for violations of the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts. He now works for Jesse L. Williams, a Traverse City attorney.

He has a particular interest in medical marijuana cases and believes there's widespread public interest on the topic.