The Detroit Free Press Weighs in With a Massive FOI Project

Parole long has been a rich area of investigative reporting. Few outlets have gone to the lengths the Detroit Free Press went to in this GREAT FOI-driven series! Kudos to the reporters and editors who toiled on this important series and to the newspaper’s editorial board, who have been hammering away at the state for its lax oversight of criminals released with little or no supervision…

See the whole project here. It’s a must read for anyone interested in seeing some of the best reporting on the subject ever — and for FOI junkies interested in the knockdown, dragout battles to obtain the information that built the series.

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FOI At Work: Money for the Poor Used To Buy Ritzy Furniture in Detroit

Knoll Pollock Chair

Man, will these people NEVER learn? The Detroit Free Press just nails ’em to the wall, thanks to FOI:

More than $210,000 intended for poor people but instead used to furnish a City of Detroit office paid for numerous leather chairs, a $3,000 mahogany-finish conference table and at least three stainless steel trash cans with motion sensor lids and a price tag of $315 each, records show.

A 56-page receipt, obtained by the Free Press under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, lists dozens of high-end items destined last year for the Human Services Department’s east-side building, including more than $30,000 spent to furnish the office and conference room of the director.

The Free Press first reported the furniture purchases in May, prompting an FBI investigation and the suspension of Director Shenetta Coleman and several other employees. Coleman could not be reached for comment.

Is your blood boiling yet? OK,try this on for size:

In a city where a third of the population lives below the federal poverty level, demand for services from the agency is so high, virtually every service has a long waiting list for some of the neediest families.

Citing financial shortages, the department didn’t open a popular warming center for homeless people until late into the winter earlier this year, drawing criticism from council members and welfare groups.

And the coup de grace?

Three state-of-the-art trash cans were designated for reception areas on the third and fourth floors of the building, according to the receipt.

The Safco Kazaam receptacles each hold 11.5 gallons of refuse and feature lids that open when infrared sensors detect an approaching hand.

According to sales literature, such a trash can “ensures odor and infection control.” The cans cost $314.93 each.

I need to go lay down now.

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