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.
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.
Police in Wisconsin have begun withholding the names of drivers in police reports in response to a 2012 case involving the village of Palatine, Ill.
Two recent developments have eased access to state records on child care and senior care facilities — institutions serving highly vulnerable populations.
Public officials sometimes resist sharing the information that forms the path for their actions with citizens and taxpayers. But it’s not “their” business, it’s the public’s business. The public has every right to know the details of government operations.
Wisconsin’s Open Records Law asserts the public’s right to the “greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them.” But the law’s reach has been tested in recent years by electronic communications that are easily sent — and just as easily deleted — from officials’ email and cellphone accounts.
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.
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.
The Ken Kratz case is exhibit number one why secrecy in government harms the public’s interest.
A state website operating since 2007 is supposed to be informing citizens how state government spends some of their taxpayer dollars by disclosing information on state contracts worth $10,000 or more. But it’s not happening.
A state Supreme Court decision rendered prosecutors’ files exempt from disclosure to the public, but past attorneys general have chosen to keep them open anyway. With fall elections approaching, it is a good time to ask candidates what they would reveal – or not reveal – if and when they are in office.
Last fall, area police and a Walworth County’s SWAT team executed a no-knock search at a residence in Delavan. It was a full-scale exercise of police power involving heavy weaponry and equipment. But details of the search were kept secret for a full month. Law enforcement officials, prosecutors and court clerks refused to comment on the operation or the whereabouts of the search warrant files.