One great thing about Wisconsin’s open records law is that it’s not supposed to matter who wants records or why. The law, enacted in 1983, asserts that no state or local government office may deny a request because the person making it “is unwilling to be identified or to state the purpose of the request.” […]
Author Archives: Bill Lueders
Your Right to Know: Are officials giving out too much information?
The nonprofit group I belong to is called the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Our mission is to protect and expand access to public records.
Usually this entails pushing state and local government officials to be as open as possible. But lately, a number of developments raise a peculiar concern: Are officials being too open?
Your Right to Know: End lawmakers’ ability to destroy records
Not long ago, I asked Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) for records regarding a controversial bill he helped author on free-speech rights at state universities. I had already obtained some communications between Vos aide Alicia Schweitzer and the Legislative Reference Bureau, from the bill-drafting file. They showed that his office had added bill language calling on […]
Your Right to Know: Public’s trust was abused over police videos
On Sunday, August 14, after a night of unrest prompted by the fatal police shooting of a black man, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said his review of body camera video of the incident proved the officer had acted appropriately. “The individual did turn toward the officer with a firearm in his hand,” Flynn stated, […]
Your Right to Know: Some lawmakers still crave secrecy
Last year on July 2, the state Legislature launched a sneak attack on Wisconsin’s open records law, effectively seeking to exempt legislators from its reach. That effort died following a huge public backlash. But some lawmakers, it’s clear, remain actively hostile to the state’s tradition of open government.
Your Right to Know: A tough year for transparency
In 2015, Wisconsin advocates for open government faced a disquieting truth: If we want to preserve our state’s tradition of transparency and accountability, we must fight for it, against powerful players who will be fighting back.
Your Right to Know: Back open government? Prove it!
On July 9, the members of the Wisconsin state Assembly collectively affirmed their support for open government. They passed a resolution stating that the Assembly “remains committed to our state’s open record and open government laws and policies, and will take all necessary steps to ensure that these laws and policies are preserved without modification or degradation.” They vowed to “continue to work to uphold these principles and protections.”
Your Right to Know: UW shouldn’t hide finalist names
A provision snuck into the state budget bill by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee would deal a significant blow to open government in Wisconsin. The provision, part of an omnibus motion of changes affecting the University of Wisconsin System, would exempt universities from the rule in place for all other state agencies regarding the naming of finalists for key positions. No longer would they need to identify the five most qualified applicants, or each applicant if there are fewer than five.
Parting reflections on an urgent coverage area
Mark Twain had a great line about Richard Wagner’s music being “better than it sounds.” Our political system is better than you would guess from listening to politicians.
Spring cleaning turns up news nuggets ranging from guns to schnapps
The columnist is cleaning off his desk, emptying his inbox. Here are a few unused news nuggets that seem a shame to throw away.
Have John Doe probes trashed rule of law in Wisconsin?
Conservative commentators have embraced the narrative put forth by critics of the two John Doe probes involving Walker and others. Wisconsin is being defamed as a place where unethical law enforcers driven by naked political partisanship have run amok.
State makes filing fraud complaints ‘as easy as possible’
Two new state portals generate about 300 tips a month, said DHS spokeswoman Claire Yunker. The department, in response to a records request, released the complaints it received for a single month.