By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — A lawsuit has been filed against City Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski-Maxwell for allegedly violating the Freedom of Information Act.
Charles Blackwell, of Detroit filed the lawsuit Oct. 6 in Wayne County Circuit Court. He claims that all the information requested in his FOIA was not provided to him.
The FOIA request was submitted Sept. 19 asking for emails from Malinowski-Maxwell on the city’s Public, Educational and Governmental fund audit issue, Mayor Daniel Paletko and Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke.
According to the lawsuit, Malinowski-Maxwell provided one email to Blackwell from her personal email account despite him requesting emails sent and received from Sept. 1 through 15. Emails voluntarily provided by Paletko showed additional emails that would’ve been responsive to the FOIA request.
Malinowski-Maxwell’s attorney, Jim Fett, said the allegation is incorrect because Blackwell changed his request after filing it and that Malinowski-Maxwell filled the first FOIA request. Fett — who is also Malinowski-Maxwell’s finance, according to the Arab American News — said Malinowski-Maxwell is gathering the rest of the information and that it will be released.
“This matter involves a municipal government and their duly elected city council members using personal email address accounts to conduct the affairs of the government and shielding such public records from the public eye,” the lawsuit read. “Such mechanism erects a roadblock for citizens who utilizes the FOIA and prevents them from the ability to truthfully obtain full and complete information about the affairs of the government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials.”
Blackwell emailed and faxed a FOIA request to Malinowski-Maxwell and the city Sept. 19, seeking the emails. Ten days later, FOIA Coordinator Kristina Laslo provided the one email which was dated Sept. 9 sent by Paletko to Malinowski-Maxwell and other city council members.
On Sept. 30, Laslo provided two emails from Paletko from his government email showing Malinowski-Maxwell sending a lengthy email to Miotke discussing his status as corporation council; contract for his law firm services; and interpretation of the city charter dated Sept. 8.
The lawsuit says that Blackwell requests the court to enter a judgment against the city and Malinowski-Maxwell ordering: assign this action for hearing at the earliest practicable date and expedite it in every way in accordance with MLC 15.240(5); schedule an in-camera review of all defendant Malinowski-Maxwell emails from between Sept. 1 to 15 to ensure all responsive emails are produced; an order that the defendant arbitrarily and capriciously violated the FOIA by concealing emails and awarding plaintiff $1,000 in punitive damages for defendant’s failure to comply with the FOIA, plus costs and disbursements in this action as provided by law; and assess the defendant a civil fine of between $2,500 and $7,500 for failure to comply with the act under MCL 15.240b E, that such relief be granted to the plaintiff as may be deemed just and proper.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])