It’s a problem that has grown markedly worse in recent years, as agencies have gotten bolder in exploiting the lack of specificity in the state’s open records law regarding the question of “How long is too long?”
A group of residents concerned about the impact of a local park redevelopment, a school board member who blew the whistle on his colleagues, and a longtime city official who has made a habit of accessibility are among the winners in this year’s Openness Awards bestowed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.
Many people in Wisconsin are under the impression that the disastrous probe into the state’s 2020 presidential election conducted by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is over, as are its costs to taxpayers. They’re wrong.
Most of the time, public officials in Wisconsin obey the state’s openness laws. Sometimes, they need a little prodding from the courts. But the recent conduct of Robin Vos and Michael Gableman is something altogether new, and deeply disturbing.
The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council announces the winners in this year’s Openness Awards, or ‘Opees.’ They will be
presented at the Wisconsin Watchdog Awards reception and dinner, on Thursday,
April 21. Register here.
Staush Gruszynski, a former state Assembly representative from Green Bay, is the subject of an ongoing legal battle over records regarding his sexual harassment of a female staffer.
A member of the public or representative of the press will file a request under Wisconsin’s open records law, which applies to all state and local government entities. But instead of records, the requester gets a bill.
For the 15th consecutive year, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is presenting its Openness in Government Awards, or Opees, recognizing outstanding achievement in the cause of transparency. Several of this years’ awards are related to the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced wholesale changes in how government officials conduct the public’s business. All are predicated on upholding the public’s right to know.
Last January, a person involved in local emergency management asked the Office of Open Government whether emergency preparedness coalitions run by the Wisconsin DHS are subject to the state’s open meetings and open records laws. The answer is yes — but arriving at this answer took nearly a year, which should not have happened.
The police killings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor, among others, as well as video footage of police using excessive force in dealing with protesters, have underscored the need for changes in policing, including greater access to disciplinary records.
It is time to break down some of the barriers that prevent the public from getting a full and true picture of how police perform — sometimes laudable, sometimes not — and how government agencies respond to allegations of misconduct.
Believe it or not, this has been a relatively quiet time on the open government front. In my role with the WFOIC, I often field calls from reporters and citizens regarding the problems they are experiencing getting access to public meetings and records.
Early in his administration, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers was asked to produce a letter he’d gotten from departing Gov. Scott Walker, during the transition. He initially refused, claiming it was a “purely personal” communication outside of the reach of the state’s open records law.