This blanket exemption would spare the UW from needing a good reason to deny access to these records, as current law requires. Instead, universities could categorically spurn inquiries from citizens, media and even lawmakers looking into controversial research, potential threats to public safety, conflicts of interest or how tax dollars are spent.
In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled that the village of Palatine, Illinois, may have violated the act by leaving parking tickets, which included personal information, on the windshields of motorists. Some Wisconsin police departments, instructed by their insurers, began redacting personal information from police reports. No other state — not even Illinois, where the Palatine case occurred — adopted this interpretation.
It’s a pretty simple question for a public official: “What exactly do you do with your time?”
Sometimes, the best way to answer that question is to obtain the official’s calendar, through the state’s open records law. In my work as a reporter, I’ve done this for the state treasurer and his staff, who work for an office with few official duties. I’ve also used the monthly calendars of Gov. Scott Walker to plot his travel and track his day-to-day meetings. So when I wanted a better understanding of how the duties of Sheboygan Mayor Mike Vandersteen and Chief Administrative Officer Jim Amodeo overlap, I asked to see their calendars. Amodeo’s response was simply, “Oh, OK.”
Vandersteen’s response was more terse. Continue Reading
HIPAA remains a “prickly” obstacle for journalists. As one health reporter puts it, “Often times, people are unsure about the law and can’t be bothered to check so it’s easier to say ‘no’ and refer to HIPAA.” Continue Reading
Following the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, citizens and the public demanded to know the involved officer’s name. The Ferguson Police Department stirred national attention, and some outrage, by waiting six days to reveal it: Officer Darren Wilson. Wisconsin has Ferguson beat. On April 30, 2014, a Milwaukee police officer shot Dontre Hamilton 14 times, killing him. Continue Reading
The DOC, citing security reasons, denied the Center’s requests to interview inmates and take photographs in the segregation unit at Waupun, or videotape an inmate at another facility. It redacted from the released records references to inmate injuries and the physical or mental health treatment they received. It categorically denied access to formal complaints filed by inmates against guards, although some released records do convey the inmates’ perspective. And it denied access to video recordings to various incidents, saying this would compromise security. Continue Reading
To assess the DOA’s performance, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism analyzed the nearly 200 records requests the agency received in the first six months of 2012. The analysis found the DOA took an average of 24 days to provide records or denials. Continue Reading
Federal inspections have found serious deficiencies in one-quarter of Wisconsin nursing homes since 2009. Continue Reading
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, the chief author of Wisconsin’s Open Records Law and a strong advocate of the Open Meetings Law, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Distinguished WisconsinWatch.orgdog Award. Continue Reading
Wisconsin state legislators are routinely deleting emails concerning their involvement with the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), exploiting a loophole that exempts the Legislature from records retention rules that apply to all other state and local government officials. Continue Reading
Advocates of open government often quiz candidates for public office on their level of support for official transparency. The candidates, when asked, always tout their commitment. That doesn’t mean they always deliver. Continue Reading
Walker’s official calendars from his first 13 months in office chronicle these and scores more hours he spent building credentials with conservatives in Wisconsin and across the nation. The second installment in a three-part series.