Jan 27, 2023 - News

FOIA Friday: Negotiating with the airport for a solution

Illustration of an unlocked padlock made out of a manila folder.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The response from Detroit Metro airport to our request for vehicle theft data culminated like many others — with a ridiculous $666 fee.

Yes, but: Unwilling to pay so much, we negotiated with the Wayne County Airport Authority's Freedom of Information Act coordinator to avoid the fee and still get some of the information.

Why it matters: The resolution was a good reminder that formal FOIA requests sometimes open the door to alternative, less costly solutions.

What happened: In December, the airport said nearly 30 cars were stolen from its parking decks in 2022.

  • When we asked for the previous year's data for that article, a spokesperson indicated a FOIA request would be necessary. So we filed one for annual car thefts and other crimes since 2015.

The latest: We asked if there was a way to get what is supposed to be public information without paying hundreds of dollars. Free of charge, the airport authority not only answered our original question about 2021 thefts, but also provided a little more info:

  • There were 29 stolen vehicles last year, three in 2021 and zero in 2020.

The bottom line: Before you give up in the face of an absurd FOIA fee, reach out to see if there's room for negotiation.


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