Minutes for Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council April 19 meeting
Capital Newspapers, Madison, Wis.
Present: Rebecca Mason, Roger Schneider, Dave Pyle, Doug Wojcik, Dick Record, Bruce Gill (for George Stanley), Dee Hall, Christa Westerberg, Anita Weier, Michael Buelow, Tim Kelley, Bob Welch, Mary Callen, Peter Fox, Bill Lueders, Craig Swanson, Mark Gundrum, Dave Zweifel, Sid Schwartz, Dick Mial.
Meeting called to order at 1:30 p.m.
Minutes and treasurer’s report approved, including payment to Jason Shepard for Web page work.
President’s report: President Bill Lueders reported that the new Government Accountability Board has secrecy problems.
Later in the meeting, Bob Welch said the Accountability Board is trying to figure out if meeting to consider resumes of retired judges is to be open to the public.
Lueders also met with a deputy to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and asked to be kept in the loop about decisions relating to openness. So far, that hasn’t happened.
FOIC executive board made a decision to send a brief about Sands v. Whitnall, a case involving the Journal Sentinel. The brief will not be accepted until the Zelmer case, involving a teacher in Cedarburg, is resolved.
Sid Schwartz reported that he is trying to get to a data base format for the Web site, so that members can submit information to the site. He said by the next meeting, that should be done.
State Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, was a guest to discuss FOI issues.
Bruce Gill of the Journal Sentinel talked about the status of ambulance records. Fire departments have been refusing to give out information on ambulance calls because of the federal HPPA privacy law. Gill said that’s wrong because HPPA allows for state open records laws.
One case involved a mailman who was driving drunk. Waukesha sent the record all blacked out. The Journal Sentinel has filed a request for an Attorney General opinion. The Waukesha Fire Department has since agreed to release a report on the drunken postal worker.
Gundrum said he is very interested in having the Attorney General address these issues, and that it would help in his role as Mukwonago city attorney. Peter Fox and Bill Lueders talked about how police are refusing to release information, citing privacy laws. Bob Dreps came across a Minnesota statute that has great specificity about what can be released. Gundrum expressed interest in the Minnesota statute and said it would help police departments make decisions.
Lueders asked Sid Schwartz if the Janesville Gazette would ask for an Attorney General opinion about police records.
Open government litigation.
The Weyauwega-Fremont School District charged an inordinate amount for records. The School Board lost the case. This was the same district that prohibited a member from taking notes during a closed session.
Peter Fox said that the owner of a popular supper club in St. Germain was picked up for drunken driving, and the defense lawyer wants the county to provide arrest reports. The county has refused.
The Department of Transportation paid a fine in the case involving Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi. The Gunderson/Zien case (involving their refusal to provide copies of a bill draft after sharing it with an interest group) is still pending.
In the case of the city of Milton closing 10 meetings about an ethanol plant, the court of appeals ruled against the city, and the city has not appealed.
The Wiredata case, a 2001 case in which the private company would have been charged a large amount to get tax assessment date, the court of appeals ruled against the independent contractor. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court.
State Bar President Steve Levine asked the FOIC if it would support open Supreme Court deliberations. Lueders will write a letter in support.
The question was raised: Should we have cards or downloadable guides to the open records and open meetings laws. Prototypes of cards were later distributed electronically to FOIC members.
The need for a statement about the rights of photographers also was discussed. Does an ordinary citizen have a write to take photos in a public event? In court, there are specific rules about who may or may not take photos. Craig Swanson said professional photographers represent the public. He said he is worried about closed areas like crime scenes and courtrooms.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.