Advocacy – Wayne County Art Institute Authority

Objective: Require the Wayne County Art Institute Authority to comply with the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Why we’re doing this: So that the people of Wayne County can hold the Detroit Institute of the Arts to higher standards.

Actions to date: we consulted with an attorney specializing in government transparency issues, and on September 7, 2020, filed a FOIA request with Wayne County for information on Art Institute Authority meetings and meeting minutes.

Outcomes to date: In mid-October 2020, Wayne County launched a home page for the Art Institute Authority.

Background: the three Art Institute Authorities (for Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties) collectively transfer over $25M of public money to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) each year. This money is raised by a millage applied to property owners in the Tri-County area and is commonly referred to as “the millage.”

The Art Institute Authorities negotiate and administer the Service Agreements which define the services that the DIA provides to the communities of the Tri-County region.

The current Service Agreements require very little from the DIA. Of the $25M of public funding each year, the Service Agreements only specify how $1.3M is spent; the remainder is distributed at the DIA’s discretion. This has resulted in a situation where the DIA provides very little to the communities of the Tri-County area in comparison to the funding they receive.

The business of the Art Institute Authorities takes place at regular meetings. The purpose of these meetings is for the Art Institute Authorities to hold the DIA to account, and for the public to hold the Art Institute Authorities to account.

The Michigan State Art Institute Authority Act (Act 296 of 2010) requires that, “The business that an authority may perform shall be conducted at a public meeting of the authority held in compliance with the open meetings act, 1976 PA 267, MCL 15.261 to 15.275.”

As of September 2020, the Wayne County Art Institute Authority provides no information on its operations. This means that there is no way for the people of Wayne County to hold the Art Institute Authority (and hence the DIA) to account. We are advocating that the Wayne County Art Institute Authority fulfill the requirements of Act 296 and conduct their business in public.