LANSING — The Michigan redistricting commission has been sued again over transparency, but this time, the plaintiff is one of its own members.
On Wednesday, Republican commissioner Erin Wagner sued the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, claiming it hasn’t responded to her Dec. 23 request for all communication between the 13-member panel and the attorneys from October 2021 to December 2021 and were not protected under attorney-client privilege.
Wagner claims the commission violated the Michigan Freedom of Information Act for failing to provide a response of whether it will deny or grant the request within 15 business days, as the law requires.
Wagner wants the Michigan Court of Claims to order the immediate release of the records, award punitive damages of $1,000 “for arbitrary and capricious violation of FOIA,” as well as the disbursement of attorney fees.
Matthew Gronda, Wagner’s attorney, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Edward Woods III, the spokesperson for the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, said in a statement the panel “is saddened to hear about the lawsuit … We look forward to addressing her claim amicably.”
Voters amended the state constitution in 2018 to create the citizen panel, replacing a system that allowed the party in power in Lansing to draw legislative boundaries every 10 years after the decennial census.
That created districts so gerrymandered that Republicans were consistently able to hold the majority in the Legislature, despite sometimes receiving fewer overall statewide votes than Democrats.
This is the second lawsuit filed against the commission over transparency issues.
Last year, Bridge Michigan and other news outlets sued the commission over a closed-door discussion about minority voting rights and representation, as the panel prepared to reduce the number of districts in which Black voters are a majority.
The Michigan Supreme Court sided with Bridge Michigan and ordered the commission to release some of the memos discussed at the session.
Three other lawsuits have been filed against the panel challenging the maps that are set to take effect next month and last 10 years. One of them has already been dismissed.
But since then, the panel has faced significant internal drama.
Last month, Chair Rebecca Szetela was accused by another commissioner of bullying.
Additionally, Julianne Pastula, the general counsel, abruptly resigned from her role — weeks after the commission voted to “empower” executive director Sue Hammersmith to start a process of mediation between Szetela and Pastula.
The commission also faces a budget deficit of nearly $1 million.