Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Minutes of July 15, 2008 meeting,
Capital Newspapers, Madison, Wis.
Present: Dick Mial, Craig Swanson, Bob Dreps, Peter Fox, John Laabs, Tom Bier, Gina Duwe, Diane martin, Bruce Vielmetti, Gordon Govien, Anita Weier, Roger Schneider, Bob Drechsel, Bill Lueders, Fred Olson III, Katy Reeder, Jim Mueller.
Meeting called to order at 1:30 p.m.
Minutes and Treasurers Report approved.
President’s report: We got approval of a $3,500 grant from the National Freedom of Information Council for a new audit of public records in all 72 counties.
A photographers bill of rights has been written. President Bill Lueders asked for photographers to take the lead sending it to police and fire departments.
Lueders asked if there should be an event for the 30th anniversary of the Wisconsin FOIC. It was agreed to partner with the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and have an event there.
Gina Duwa wants to rebuild the FOIC Web page to make it easier for more people to post things.
Does the Woznicki fix need fixing? The down side of trying to fix it is that there could be unexpected and unwelcome results. John Laabs suggested waiting until something “egregious” happens.
Legal update: Bob Dreps reported that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen gave a good decision about the Drivers Privacy Protection Act. His opinion was that law enforcement agencies may release information from motor vehicle records in the course of responding to public records requests. The Opinion was requested by the FOIC and several newspapers. Even so, Peter Fox reported that municipalities still resist giving information. Peter Fox said he would contact the League of Municipalities to discuss the issue.
In the WIREdata case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said three municipalities did not violate the state’s open records law when they did not give a real estate listing service access to a computer database of assessment records. Instead, the municipalities were given non-searchable PDF files. The case raises issues about access to electronic information.
The case of Watson vs. Hagerty involved reports relating to a mentally ill man who committed murder. The Supreme Court ruled that emergency detention records are mental health records, not subject to the Open Records Law.
In the case about whether a Beaver Dam economic development agency was subject to the open meetings law, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the agency, which is supported entirely by local tax dollars, was subject to the Open Meetings Law.
Dreps said it was the decision he was hoping for.
In the Sands case, the issue was whether there was a privilege to keep secrets in closed meetings. The Supreme Court said contents of closed meeting are not exempt from discovery.
Peter Fox said the law firm of Godfrey & Kahn should be praised for its legal work in these cases.
Legislative update: Peter Fox noted that Van Hollen was urged to sign a letter in support of a federal shield law protecting journalists and whistleblowers. He declined, saying he did not want to get involved in legislative issues.
Attorneys general from 42 other state signed the letter, and two others instead wrote letters of their own, in support of the shield law.
Fox said the Wisconsin Newspaper Association is considering its legislative agenda, which includes:
A state shield law, requiring local governments to make audio or video recordings of closed meetings, and then requiring the governments to review the recordings once a year to see if secrecy is still needed.
The WNA also has Minnesota’s law enforcement data law as an example Wisconsin should follow.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:25 p.m.
– Submitted by Dick Mial, FOIC secretary.