Lawmakers must provide any documents they possess in response to an open records request. But they don’t need to provide documents they don’t have, and nothing compels them to keep documents.
Should enforcement of Wisconsin’s open records and open meetings laws depend on individual citizens having to file often costly and protracted lawsuits? That is one option prescribed under these laws, and those who prevail in such cases can recover attorney’s fees. But the laws also contain provisions intended to help people resolve disputes in a cheaper and less complicated way: Citizens can ask the state attorney general or county district attorney to sue a government authority, and any person can seek advice from the attorney general. Continue Reading
As part of national Sunshine Week, March 16-22, the columnist wants to reflect on the importance of journalists and others being more than mere spectators in the tug of war that perpetually plays out over these issues.
Apparently, many of the hundreds of open records requests being made of Walker’s county office were going to the Walker campaign for review. Clearly, these were all public records and the campaign should have had no involvement whatsoever in their review or release.
There is a broader issue: the public has a right to know who is saying what to elected officials.
State Sen. Leah Vukmir is making a novel legal argument to dodge a public records request — one that could neuter Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. Continue Reading
On July 30, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on newly released emails between Scott Walker’s campaign staff and county aides in 2010, back when the future governor was Milwaukee county executive. One email was from Cindy Archer, then a top county aide, to Walker and his campaign staff, advising that “we may be responding too quickly” to open records requests regarding a county parking structure collapse that killed a 15-year-old boy. The requests were from the state Democratic Party and the campaign of Walker’s GOP primary opponent, which presumably wanted to use the tragedy to impugn Walker. That’s a pretty low motivation — Walker, in a draft statement, aptly called it “disgusting” — but the state’s Open Records Law does not allow a requester’s motives to be taken into account. Continue Reading
Because voucher schools are still classified as “private,” they can — and do — ignore Wisconsin’s open records and meetings laws. It’s a double standard that
undermines transparency and shields information from parents and the public.
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
A ruling last year by the Wisconsin Supreme Court involving the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel became the focus of attention Feb. 27, when a state Assembly committee held a public hearing on a bill, AB 26, that would drastically increase the cost of obtaining public records. The bill, if approved, would let custodians of public records charge a fee for redacting sensitive information. 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
Award-winning investigative journalist and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate Lea Thompson will deliver the keynote address at the third annual WisconsinWatch.orgdog Awards on April 24. Continue Reading