Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
July 19, 2018 minutes
Capital Newspapers auditorium
1. Call to order and introductions. The meeting was called to order at 2:03 p.m. In attendance were Dee Hall, Tom Kamenick, John Foust, Orville Seymer, Tom Bier, Kyle Geissler, Doug Wojcik, Larry Gallup, Bob Drechsel, Ivan Moreno, Christa Westerberg, Bill Lueders, April Barker and Andy Hall. Appearing by speakerphone was Rusty Cunningham. Guests were Steven Potter and Paul Johnson.
2. Approval of minutes from 4/11/18. Approved
3. Treasurer’s report. Drechsel presented the report, which noted total assets of $6,188.77.
4. President’s report. Lueders presented the report. a) The National Freedom of Information Council summit is scheduled for Sept. 21-22 in Cincinnati. Kamenick volunteered to attend.
b) The following attorneys have agreed to take referrals from news organizations and others seeking legal help from WisFOIC: Westerberg, Barker, Kamenick and James Friedman. c) Planning for the Council’s 40th anniversary party on Oct. 30 at the Capitol. Westerberg said the plans include commissioning a piece of art. There also may be a slide show and a speaker. She said the date could be flexible depending on how many legislators will be in town. Bier suggested that the Council conduct a candidate survey on government openness issues be released at that time.
5. Legislative news. Lueders said a legislative study committee on police body cameras has been formed. There are two media representatives, James Friedman and Ben Hart. Johnson said the State Patrol currently keeps videos at their homes and requesters must go through the individual troopers to access them, raising concerns about whether all tapes are being saved. Lueders mentioned that is one of the issues for the study committee. Lueders also said the Wisconsin Policy Forum is calling for the state to streamline its expungement process to allow more people to have the records of their convictions shielded.
6. Legal update. Westerberg summarized several cases. The Court of Appeals rejected a complaint by a billboard company that a Dane County Board member engaged in an illegal “walking quorum” when he quizzed fellow supervisors about their support for a contract renewal. The court found there were not enough supervisors contacted to constitute a quorum. The appeals court also upheld release of personnel records to a UW-Oshkosh student journalist and ordered the university to remove redactions from the records. Kamenick also said briefs have been filed in the case against state Rep. Scott Krug, who declined to provide electronic records of email correspondence to Lueders. He said WisFOIC, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the Badger Institute, the John K. MacIver Institute and Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin have filed amicus briefs. Kamenick also alerted the council to a case in which an entire open-records case has been sealed under the argument that the records sought are attorney-client documents. Lueders said even the decisions made so far in the case have been sealed. Kamenick noted the case raises numerous 1st Amendment and open court issues. Westerberg suggested WisFOIC file a motion to intervene. Lueders said he expects there will soon be coverage of the case. He suggested a range of options from a statement opposing the sealing of the case to an amicus brief to intervening.
7. Discussion: Is the Wisconsin Supreme Court subject to the state open records law? Lueders said in response to requester Mark Belling, who was seeking email addresses for Supreme Court justices, the court administrator said the high court was considering whether it is subject to the open records law. That position was reversed after “internal blowback.” But Belling is continuing to seek records about the court’s deliberations on this issue, to which he had not received a response. Lueders also asked for the records directly from Justices Roggensack and Abrahamson (current and former chief justices) and there was no response. Lueders said he remains concerned that the court may not consider itself subject to the law.
8. Discussion: A tale of two requests for school safety spending records. Seymer said he had requested records from two districts: The Oak Creek/Franklin district, which promptly turned them over; and the Franklin Public Schools, which denied the request, saying releasing such records could endanger student and staff safety. Westerberg suggesting sending the positive response to the district that turned him down.
9. Media literacy. Potter, a UW-Madison journalism grad student, said he is concerned about negative attitudes toward the media. He plans to create a program for high school students to give them insight into how journalists do their jobs. He said the program could be in-classroom or after school and could include Q & A’s with reporters and visits to newsrooms. He asked for the Council’s support, which it gave. Potter also asked to join the FOIC board.
10. Other issues. The Wisconsin DOJ is prosecuting a Taylor County police sergeant for releasing records to the producers of a TV show. The city of Oconto is ordered to pay $3,000 to the Oconto County Reporter after it refused to release records of their police chief finalists. U.S. Public Interest Research Group ranks Wisconsin third best for providing government spending info. The state of California charges operators of the Mugshot.com website with extortion.
11. Website. John Foust said the FOIC website broke down, another sign that it needs to be replaced.
12. Council membership. Lueders announced that James Friedman will replace Dustin Brown on the FOIC board. Mike Buelow is no longer a member.
13. Your Right to Know column. Lueders solicited topics for August, September and October.
14. Other business including next meeting date. The council agreed to meet around 1 p.m. on Oct. 30 to leave time for the 40th anniversary celebration. [Actual meeting time: 1:30.]
15. Adjournment. The meeting was adjourned at 3:45 p.m.