Michigan - Answers to Common Questions Regarding our Michigan Office of Retirement Services (ORS) Freedom of Information Act Request 66_Michigan_Retirement

March 13, 2019 02:00 PM


"Taxpayers have a right to know where government funds are going and to whom. After all, it's our money. At the federal, state, and local level, pension and retirement systems are facing a fiscal crisis. The transparency revolution is empowering citizens to hold government accountable like never before. OpenTheBooks is committed to giving the public the information they need to ask the right questions."

– Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) Founder and Chief Executive Officer of OpenTheBooks.com

What does OpenTheBooks plan to do with the information?

Our mission at OpenTheBooks.com is to post online every dime taxed and spent at every level of government. Across America, we’ve captured nearly 15 million public employee salaries plus the 2 million federal civil service employee salaries; public pension data in 32 states including Michigan; and local, state and federal checkbook information. For the first time in history, big data and new technologies are converging to empower citizens with the ability to hold the political class accountable for tax and spend decisions.

Each year, we file approximately 90,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests at the Federal, State and Local levels of government across America. Our open records request to the Michigan Office of Retirement Systems is just one of these filings.

  • This is the third year that we’ve filed our request with the Michigan Office of Retirement Services. Citizens can review the monthly retirement annuities from 148,000 Michigan retirees here. 
  • Review the 549,062 public employee salaries from every level of Michigan government here
  • Review the Michigan state government expenditures since 2014 including payments to roughly 66,000 state vendors here
  • Review all disclosed federal government contracts, grants, direct payments, insurance, farm subsidies and loans flowing into Michigan for the past three years here.
  • Review all disclosed federal employees working in Michigan here

Why the Freedom of Information Act request?

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously stated, "Sunlight is the best of disinfectants." In order to have robust public policy discussions, everything must be on the table – including public employee pay and pension data. One of the largest state (taxpayer) creditors in Michigan is the government employees and retirees. Therefore, the pay, perquisites, pensions and management of public employees is one of the biggest issues affecting the delivery of education, public safety, soft social safety-net, and every government service.

Citizens should not have to have a search warrant to see how their money is being spent. Even if there is a mix of public and private dollars contributed to a public pension, taxpayers are guaranteeing the entire formula. The people of Michigan deserve to see the granular details of who’s receiving what, when and after how long. It’s the only fair way to debate taxpayer-guaranteed job benefits. 

Why post retiree names?

Having public employee and retiree names is crucial to thorough oversight – including who received what from which government employer.

At the state and local level, our organization at the website OpenTheBooks.com has demonstrated the public interest benefit of illuminating pension data. Thirty-two states including the union strongholds of California, Illinois, New York and Oregon have transparency of public employee retirees – including names.

Here are just three examples of pension malfeasance from Illinois:

  • In Illinois, we caught a pair of union lobbyists who substitute taught for one day in the public schools, retired, and started collecting their $1 million lifetime pensions – despite a law expressly designed to stop them. 
  • Former IL Republican Governor Jim Edgar double-dipped two retirement systems. Mr. Edgar receives $301,272 from the General Assembly Retirement System ($161,016), the State University Retirement System ($80,256), and works ‘part-time’ for an additional $60,000 at the University of Illinois. 
  • The retired deputy chief of staff to former IL Democratic Governor Pat Quinn was supposed to receive a $20,000 annual pension. Instead, she cashed checks totaling $137,000 per year. The former deputy to the governor was overpaid by $347,000 before a good-government hawk exposed the mistake.

What fields of information are posted and where?

This is our third year posting names, employer, year and monthly annuity amount for Michigan Office of Retirement Services at OpenTheBooks.com.

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