CORUNNA — The Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office spent $1,190 on an attorney to contest and ultimately deny a Freedom of Information Act request by The Argus-Press for phone records from the county jail.

The Argus-Press submitted a FOIA after receiving credible information that a jail guard had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a female trusty inmate. The request was for phone records placed from the female trusty cell.

One week after the FOIA was submitted to the Sheriff’s Office, the guard who was accused of having a relationship with an inmate voluntarily resigned.

The Sheriff’s Office then denied the request, claiming it would constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy, though the records would have had any identifiable personal information redacted before being released.

At a July 18 county commissioners meeting, The Argus-Press appealed that denial.

The Sheriff’s Office was represented at the meeting by Lansing law firm Cohl, Stoker & Toskey. The county board of commissioners voted 7-0 to not release the requested phone records.

According to another FOIA from the Argus-Press, the county was billed $1,190 for 6.8 hours for the firm to contest the appeal.

An invoice from Cohl, Stoker & Toskey shows that the attorney, who showed up late to the meeting, billed the county for “receiving and reviewing email from Tamie Willson regarding the investigation, receiving and reviewing correspondence and documents, (writing to) client, a telephone conference with client, research, preparing for appeal hearing and to travel to, attend and argue FOIA by The Argus-Press.”

The most recent FOIA request for legal expenses incurred by the county to contest the original request was submitted Aug. 13, and was not received until Oct. 4, even though the invoice was dated Aug. 23, 10 days after the request.

According to open records laws, officials have five business days to respond to a FOIA request, unless an extension is filed, at which point officials have an additional five days to respond.

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