The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)
STATE OF MICHIGAN
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT:
OPEN MEETINGS ACT:
URBAN REDEVELOPMENT CORPORATION:
Application of Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act to Urban Redevelopment Corporation
An urban redevelopment corporation organized under the Urban Redevelopment Corporations Law is a "public body" subject to the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
Opinion No. 7066
November 7, 2000
Honorable Jason E. Allen
Lansing, MI 48913
You have asked whether an urban redevelopment corporation formed under the Urban Redevelopment Corporations Law is a "public body" subject to the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
The Open Meetings Act (OMA), 1976 PA 267, MCL 15.261 et seq; MSA 4.1800(11) et seq, requires a public body to open its meetings to the public subject to limited exceptions. OAG, 1981-1982, No 6053, p 616 (April 13, 1982). Its purpose is "to promote a new era in governmental accountability" and to foster "openness in government as a means of promoting responsible decision making." Booth Newspapers, Inc v Univ of Michigan Bd of Regents, 444 Mich 211, 222-223; 507 NW2d 422 (1993). The act is to be broadly interpreted and its exemptions strictly construed. Id., 223. The OMA defines a "[p]ublic body" to include "any state or local legislative or governing body . . . which is empowered by state constitution, statute, charter, ordinance, resolution, or rule to exercise governmental or proprietary authority or perform a governmental or proprietary function." Section 2(a). Only bodies empowered by law to exercise governmental or proprietary authority are included within this definition. OAG, 1997-1998, No 6935, p 18 (April 2, 1997).
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 et seq; MSA 4.1801(1) et seq, entitles members of the public to inspect and copy or receive copies of the public records created by a public body except for records specifically exempted from public disclosure. The purpose and scope of the FOIA are delineated in that act's public policy statement set forth in section 1(2).
[A]ll persons . . . are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees . . . so that they may fully participate in the democratic process.
The FOIA defines the term "public body" to include "[a]ny . . . body which is created by state or local authority . . . ." Section 2(d)(iv).
The Urban Redevelopment Corporations Law (URCL), 1941 PA 250, MCL 125.901 et seq; MSA 5.3058(1) et seq, provides for the creation of urban redevelopment corporations for the purpose of redeveloping substandard areas in cities and, to a limited extent, redeveloping certain former state-owned facilities located within townships. A redevelopment corporation organized under the URCL is empowered to engage in substantial activities on behalf of the public including planning, rehabilitating, modernizing, improving and reconstructing properties within a development area and is subject to extensive regulation and oversight by the city and the local planning commission. See, e.g., Id., sections 4 and 5. See also sections 7, 10, and 11. A redevelopment corporation may be granted tax exemptions on real property held in its name, id., section 12, and is authorized to ask the city or township to acquire property by condemnation for conveyance to the corporation. Id., section 16.
With its power to develop real estate, including land clearance and condemnation through the city which supervises its activities, a redevelopment corporation meets the OMA definition of a "public body" as a "legislative or governing body . . . which is empowered by . . . statute . . . ordinance, resolution or rule to exercise governmental or proprietary authority or perform a governmental or proprietary function." Section 2(a). Similarly, since a redevelopment corporation is established only with the approval and ongoing supervision of a city, these corporations meet the FOIA definition of "public body" which includes "[a]ny other body which is created by . . . local authority." Section 2(d)(iv).
Although section 6 of the URCL authorizes the creation of such corporations as nonprofit and for-profit corporations, section 2 specifically declares that such corporations created under the act "are hereby declared to be agencies and instrumentalities of the state." (Emphasis added.) Meaning and effect must be given to such explicit declarations of intent by the Legislature. Anzaldua v Band, 457 Mich 530, 535; 578 NW2d 306 (1998). Given this express declaration of legislative intent, a redevelopment corporation clearly constitutes a "public body" within the meaning of both the OMA and the FOIA.
OAG, 1989-1990, No 6563, p 27, (January 26, 1989), does not compel a contrary conclusion. That opinion involved a nonprofit corporation created by a county board of commissioners to engage in economic development activities within the county. The opinion concluded that since the Legislature had not authorized counties to create such a corporate entity, the corporation must therefore be treated as a purely private corporation formed by the individual incorporators. Consequently, this purely private corporation did not constitute a "public body" for purposes of the FOIA. This is in marked contrast to the entity described in your inquiry. Here, the Legislature has not only authorized the creation of urban redevelopment corporations pursuant to the URCL, but has also expressly stated that such corporations are "agencies and instrumentalities of the state."
It is my opinion, therefore, that an urban redevelopment corporation organized under the Urban Redevelopment Corporations Law is a "public body" subject to the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM