Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council vice president Christa Westerberg says all levels of government in Wisconsin should be more transparent and open in 2023.
Wisconsin’s open records law is most often used by requesters seeking to obtain records from a government agency. But occasionally it works in reverse, allowing someone to block the release of records to a requester.
Many states, including Wisconsin, have public records laws. But that doesn’t mean requesters always get the records they seek, or even that the laws are followed.
What provisions in a state’s laws are most associated with compliance?
Wisconsin citizens are getting the “You can’t handle the truth” treatment from some officials over information related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just shy of two years ago, this column explored the heightened importance of open government when public health is at risk. Multiple examples showed the government was not sharing timely information with the public, or even other branches of government, on issues such as clean drinking water and chronic wasting disease.
As Justice Shirley Abrahamson ends her tenure on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after 43 years and more than 1,300 authored opinions, she leaves a rich legacy of legal scholarship, importantly including her support for government transparency.
Wisconsin’s open government laws were meant to strengthen our democracy by ensuring an informed electorate. But, sometimes, transparency is about more than democracy—it is about human health, with serious consequences when transparency fails.
A growing trend threatens transparency — and good government — in Wisconsin. Some legislative committees are using “mail ballots” to vote, instead of voting during public meetings.
Wisconsin’s third branch of government is critical to open government. This year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear three cases involving Wisconsin’s open records law, and could make important decisions involving access to the courts. The court’s docket starts with a case about whether videos of law enforcement training sessions must be released to the […]
The last six months have been a roller coaster for Wisconsin’s open records law. After the Legislature’s failed attack on the law over the Independence Day holiday, August brought a new threat. A little-known state board expanded the definition of “transitory records,” which can be immediately destroyed. Once this action was revealed, there was an […]
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 […]
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.