Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FOIA and Me

For the last several months, I have been reading a Grand Rapids blog called Local Area Watch. LAW deals with the various underhanded deals and shenanigans going on here in River City. Recently, I have taken a more active role than just reading LAW.

One of LAW's ongoing endevours (and primary reason it exists) is the under(non?)-reported scandal involving the Boardwalk Building. The Boardwalk Building was the site of the Berkey & Gay manufacturing plant for many years, which was itself built on top of urban fill - both recipes for pollution and toxic waste. (What kind of toxic waste? Nothing too serious, just 26,000 tons of soil contaminated with toxic levels of lead, arsenic and mercury, along with phenanthrene, which leaches out into the air we breathe if contaminated soil is disturbed.) LAW has filed lawsuits alleging that we, the citizens of River City, have been exposed to these toxins. The City of Grand Rapids is party to this suit, and that's where I (and FOIA) come in.

An attorney for the City, Daniel Ophoff, had been stalling LAW's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding the value of Boardwalk Building. (It's a further complication: the Boardwalk Building developers appear to have either committed bank fraud and/or tax fraud in declaring its value.) LAW asked its readers to try filing a FOIA request of our own, to see if we got any farther. I and two other readers filed the requests. City Attorney Ophoff, after about a month's delay, finally sent me the requested documents, which I turned over to LAW this Tuesday afternoon.

Case closed, right?

Wrong. City Attorney Ophoff (who works for us taxpayers, remember) came up with the lame excuse that my request was not specific enough (requested items #2 and #3) and claimed he was unable to locate the (damning) letters.

So, where we do we now stand? LAW has decided to force the issue into the open by filing yet another lawsuit in Kent County Circuit Court. I will post updates on the progress of this situation as it unfolds.


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