Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
April 7, 2016 meeting
Capital Newspapers Auditorium
- Call to order and introductions. In attendance were Bill Lueders, Bob Dreps, Tom
Kamenick, Orville Seymer, Julia Hunter, Dave Zweifel, John Foust, Bob Drechsel, Mike Buelow, Mark Pitsch, Larry Gallup, Tom Bier, Dave Haynes, April Barker, Andy Hall, Doug Glass, Paul Ferguson and Dee Hall. Christa Westerberg appeared by speakerphone.
- Approval of 1-14-16 minutes.
- Treasurer’s report. Drechsel reported that FOIC had $6,810.96 in the bank. Revenues include $1,100 in dues and $500 from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and more than $1,000 in cash donations from the Open Government Traveling Show.
- President’s report. a) Lueders reported that the March 15-17 Open Government Traveling Show drew 300 attendees, media coverage and “much goodwill.” b) Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne responded to the Council’s complaint over the Public Record Board’s altered definition of “transitory records” by noting that the board had “cured” the problem by rescinding its earlier action. c) FOIC announces its Opee winners for 2015-16: Attorney General Brad Schimel for Political Openness Award (“Popee”); George Stanley and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for Media Openness Award (“Mopee”); Sheila Plotkin for Citizen Openness Award (“Copee”); reporter Greg Neumann, WKOW-TV, for Open Records Scoop of the Year (“Scoopee”); former state employee Molly Regan for Whistleblower of the Year or (“Whoopee”); and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for No Friend of Openness Award (“Nopee).” d) Watchdog Awards dinner set for Wednesday, April 20. Bob Dreps will be named the Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog. 5) Bi-annual election for president, two co-vice presidents, treasurer, secretary and executive board. Zweifel conducted the voice vote re-election of Lueders as president; April Barker and Christa Westerberg as co-vice presidents; Bob Drechsel as treasurer; Dee Hall as secretary; and the executive board composed of these board officers and representatives from Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.
6) Legislative news. Lueders reported that the Legislative Council was not expected to form a study committee on changes to the records law. Several bills stalled, including those that would have hiked compensation and sealed court records of the wrongfully convicted; made autopsy reports confidential; and made high school athletic associations subject to the state open records and meetings laws. Two bills were introduced but saw no action: one that would destroy court records of expunged cases and one that would set rules for the use of body cameras. Joint Finance co-chair John Nygren has reiterated his desire to see changes to the records law. 7) Legal update. Dreps reported that the state Supreme Court had deadlocked on whether to accept the lawsuit involving the privacy of drivers’ records. The case goes back to the appeals court. He also reported that opening briefs were filed in Schimel’s challenge to a lawsuit by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to get training videos from his time as Waukesha County DA. Westerberg noted that two lower courts have already ruled the videos can be released. The council discussed the Moustakis case in which the Vilas County DA is seeking to block release of records involving criminal investigations by the state Department of Justice involving him.
Dreps said the issue is whether Moustakis, an elected official, is a state “employee” with the right to a judicial review of DOJ’s decision to release the documents. The council also discussed the Midwest Environmental Advocates’ lawsuit against the state Department of Natural Resources, which had been sitting on a records request filed by the group. The two sides reached a settlement and the records were released. Kamenick mentioned that WILL had won a case involving driver’s records in Jefferson County on behalf of the Wisconsin Reporter. Also, a person is challenging his wrongful placement on the DOJ criminal database; and Voces de la Frontera has sued Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke for unredacted records related to immigration. Kamenick discussed the case in which a taxpayer alleged the Appleton School District violated the state Open Meetings Law by holding closed committee meetings to review potential student reading materials. Hunter also discussed a North Woods case in which the state DOJ is seeking a gag order in a criminal case related to two brothers being criminally charged. She said several media organizations have registered their opposition.
- Issue for discussion: Gov. Walker’s executive order on open records. Lueders said some of the directives in the executive order match state law but a few go beyond it — for example requiring agencies to acknowledge within one day receipt of a request and to provide a status report in five days. The order also requires agencies to track their responses to requests. Members were very positive about the changes. Lueders noted that many of the steps are similar to those taken by the state DOJ under Schimel.
- Topics to pursue. The council discussed several potential initiatives including requiring recordings of closed sessions; pressuring court clerks to allow records requesters to take photos of records for free; quizzing legislative candidates on whether they would favor changing existing retention rules for lawmakers; continued opposition to the push by Walker and legislative Republicans to insert a “deliberative process exemption” and to allow withholding the names of constituents who communicate with lawmakers into the records law; possible amicus briefs; access to electronic records; and access to in-prison videos. Barker suggested a “report card” by the FOIC of politicians and judges. Lueders said he would pull together the candidate survey. Westerberg said we should include a question about whether lawmakers believe the final state budget amendment, labeled the “999” motion, should continue to be anonymous. 10) Review of recent news coverage on government openness issues. (Consult April 7, 2016 packet). In addition to news stories, the council discussed Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s policy of deleting his calendar daily.
11) Website. Foust asked for volunteers to test the new website once it’s installed. He reported that the initial testing of the WordPress site is promising. A. Hall and Westerberg offered help. 12) Council membership. Gordon Govier is no longer a member. Lueders invited Kamenick to be a member of the council.
13) Your Right to Know column. Ideas for the June and July columns were discussed. 14) Other business. Seymer mentioned he’s got all of the emails from Public Records Board chairman Matthew Blessing if anyone wants to review. Drechsel plugged the upcoming journalism Ethics conference on April 29. The next meeting date was set for 2 p.m. Thursday, July 21.
15)Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 3:45