Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Jan. 13, 2013
Capital Newspapers Auditorium
1) Call to order. Meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m. In attendance were Dee Hall, Christa
Westerberg, Bill Lueders, Bob Drechsel, Mark Pitsch, Roger Schneider, John Dye, Mary Callen, Beth
Bennett, Gina Duwe, Dan Flannery, Jason Maddux, Sean Dwyer, Doug Wojcik, Dave Zweifel, Tom Bier,
Andy Hall, Bob Dreps, Steve Lovejoy, Chris Hardie and Michelle Vetterkind.
2) Approval of minutes from Oct. 11, 2012 meeting.
3) Treasurer’s report: Drechsel reported that WisFOIC has $4,740.14 in the bank.
4) President’s report: Lueders reported on a variety of items:
a) Sunshine Week will be March 11-17. Opee Awards will be announced then.
b) Ongoing research on how to set up a legal defense fund for openness battles in Wis. Such a
fund already exists through the national FOIC for out-of-pocket expenses. Lueders suggested we could
run our own fund more efficiently and also retain control of how the money is used.
c) Announced the national FOIC meeting will be in New Orlean May 17-18. Seeking a
representative to make the trip. Scholarship available for plane, lodging, registration.
d) Still no word from AG Van Hollen about possibility of changing open-records law and allowing
requesters to make their own photocopies to save money.
5) Watchdog Awards. A. Hall said the event will be April 24 at the Madison Club. Lea Thompson will
be the keynote speaker. Former lawmaker Lynn Adelman will be Distinguished Wisconsin Watchdog.
Bennett said WNA has discussed starting an editorial campaign to prompt all levels of government to set
policies for electronic communications during public meetings.
6) Legislative issues: Lueders discussed a new law that allows districts to keep principal evaluations
private. Westerberg noted she had written a column on the DNR’s decision to close enforcement
conferences. Westerberg said DNR must keep minutes of these now-closed door sessions. The group also
discussed a push to require recording of closed door meetings. WNA board has decided to pursue issue
this session. Bennett acknowledged the effort will not likely be well received but could be the start of a
long process to gain acceptance. The Stevens Point school board decided to do it on a 4-5 vote. Bennett
said a similar law has helped prevent open meetings-law violations in Ill. The council unanimously
agreed to support WNA’s effort to require recording of executive sessions. The members also engaged in
a lengthy discussion about a new fee structure at DNR to charge $25 an hour for locating records beyond
three hours. Westerberg also said that DNR had a new policy of how it responds to “sensitive requesters”
including the media, whose requests must go through an additional level of review. Zweifel said it is part
of officials’ jobs to honor open-records requests. Dreps said the law allows a search fee if the cost exceeds
$50. Westerberg said DNR has complained about the time to conduct some searches; Dreps said the law
requires that records be kept in a “reasonably efficient manner.” Hardie said the press shouldn’t get any
special treatment over the public. Bennett also reported on legislative efforts to stop requiring newspaper
notices of legal ads and put them online. That’s been halted for now.
7) Discussion: How can the council anticipate and respond to probably legislative efforts to change the
open records law to allow custodians to impose new fees? Lueders said lawmakers likely will try to plug
the hole left by the Supreme Court when it ruled bodies cannot charge fees for reviewing and redacting
records. He also noted some governments want to charge staff time to supervise citizens reviewing
ballots. Lueders suggested council members should be ready to respond with editorials and articles. Dreps
mentioned a case in with the Green Bay Press Gazette was asked to pay “six figures” to review and redact.
He said the district eventually backed down and charged a “reasonable, lawful amount.”
8) Opee Awards: The council formed a committee to choose this year’s Opee Award winners. Various
nominees were mentioned and discussed. WNA and WBA agreed to ask members for nominations. The
committee will be Dreps, D. Hall, Lueders, Westerberg and Schneider.
9) Issue: Proposed Judicial Council amendment to require appellate briefs to shield the names of
victims. Dreps said he believes it “solves no problem” and is a “slippery slope.” Lueders said the rationale
is that appeals court rulings are online. Westerberg noted that lower court decisions and police reports
also may be online in the future. The group also discussed the fact that some police depts. insist on
written open-records requests, although the law allows oral requests. Dreps said some police departments
are interpreting a recent 7th Circuit Court decision to mean they can’t give out driver’s license
information. Westerberg noted that new rules in the Capitol prohibit spectators from taking photos or
video. Hardie wondered whether legislative leaders violated the open-meetings law in meeting in secret to
pass the new rules. Dreps said he’s not certain whether that group is considered a “committee” that would
have to meet in public. Lueders suggested the council come out in favor of allowing citizen to record the
Legislature. Dwyer suggested we limit the issue to a citizens’ right to record. Pitsch noted that lawmakers
fear being shown in an “unfavorable” light. Maddux noted they’re already on public display. Lueders said
he will work on a Your Right to Know column on this issue, to run past the executive committee.
10) Legal update. Several cases were discussed including the first test of the “shield” law involving
reporters from WISC-TV & Capital Times. Prosecutors sought to subpoena materials from reporters in
a raw-milk case. Judge blocked it because DOJ failed to show it could not find the information by other
means. Westerberg thanked FOIC, WNA and WBA for paying for amicus brief in Juneau County case in
which the state Supreme Court ruled the Juneau Star-Times had a right to see legal bills related to the
firing of a sheriff’s lieutenant.
11) Other issues: Withholding of 34 emails in the redistricting case; a special prosecutor named in
open-meetings law complaint filed by Vilas County sheriff.
12) Website: Lueders said he will begin adding meeting minutes to site.
13) Your Right to Know column: Topics will be legislative gallery rules, Opee Awards, a Sunshine
Week column by SPJ, electronic chatter during meetings or recording closed meetings. Lueders also
plans to write about DOA’s lack of responsiveness to media open-records requests. Flannery said he could
write about the extreme hurdles Gannett faced in accumulating salary data of state workers.
14) Council members. Dwyer and Flannery were added as public members to the council.
15) Other business, next meeting date. The next meeting was set for 2 p.m. on April 18.
16) Adjournment. Meeting adjourned at 4:18 p.m.