Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Minutes of the Oct. 12, 2016 meeting
Capital Newspapers auditorium
1) Call to order and introductions. The meeting was called to order at 2:05 p.m. In
attendance were Bill Lueders, Dee Hall, Steve Lovejoy, Orville Seymer, Larry Gallup, Mark
Pitsch, Jonathan Anderson, Kyle Geissler, Tom Bier, Andy Hall, Bob Drechsel, Bob Dreps, Ernie
Franzen, Julia Hunter, Chris Ahmuty, Mary Bottari, Paul Ferguson, Paul Johnson, Neil W.
Johnson, Tom Kamenick, Dustin Block, Dave Zweifel, Christa Westerberg and April Barker (by
2) Approval of minutes from 7/21/16 meeting. Minutes approved with a modification to
further explain a Vilas County judge’s ruling releasing records about a sheriff’s deputy.
3) Treasurer’s report. Drechsel reported a balance of $5,195. The largest expense was
$1,716.66 for the amicus brief filed in the Voces de la Frontera case against Milwaukee County
Sheriff David Clarke.
4) President’s report. a) Lueders reported that the council had joined the Wisconsin
Newspaper Association and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in filing the Clarke brief. b)
WCCA Oversight Committee holds first of six planned meetings on Sept. 27; Lueders, Vetterkind
and Bennett were there. Lueders said many members want to make changes in what court
records are available online. c) Lueders announced Watchdog Awards will be March 30.
Sunshine Week is March 12-18.
5) National FOIC report. Westerberg reported on numerous reports from the National FOIC
meeting in Washington, D.C., in October. Panels discussed problems with “abusive requesters”
who were turning public sentiment against disclosure laws; the fact that the U.S. ranks 51st in
the world for the quality of its disclosure laws; and a Reporters Committee for Freedom of the
Press survey that recommended releasing data to all journalists and the public when answering
requests. Westerberg suggested we examine Open Book Wisconsin to see whether this
transparency initiative is actually working. She also suggested we raise awareness of WisFOIC.
6) Legislative news: Lueders discussed two Legislative Council study committees, one
examining recidivism and another on publication of government documents and legal notices.
Lueders also reported Illinois had passed protections for student journalists, similar to a bill
being contemplated in Wisconsin.
7) Legal update: Westerberg reported on the Wis. Supreme Court oral argument in the
Democratic Party lawsuit against AG Brad Schimel. Schimel’s side argued there was “sensitive”
law enforcement information in the training videos sought by the Dems. Their attorney
appeared open to obtaining redacted videos. Westerberg discussed the Teague vs. DOJ lawsuit,
which she said could broaden the categories of people receiving Woznicki notices allowing them
to challenge release of records. Westerberg said the WisFOIC amicus brief included arguments
on Wisconsin’s history of openness in providing law enforcement records. Other news: The
Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty case was accepted by the Wis. Supreme Court, and the
council agreed to file an amicus brief on behalf of WILL, which argues that the Appleton School
District’s curriculum review committee should be open to the public. Lueders also reported that
he had sued state Rep. Scott Krug over his refusal to provide records in electronic format. Paul
Johnson mentioned that he had been charged 25 cents a page for electronic records that a
custodian insisted on printing out, then redacting. Dreps said the law is not clear on the issue,
although “electronic copies should cost a lot less than printed copies.” Anderson said he has
asked for three sets of records involving a former Marshfield School District official and has
been denied by officials citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ( FERPA).
8) Discussion items: a) John Doe case secrecy and records destruction. Members and
guests discussed the status of the John Doe records and whether they are likely to be destroyed.
Dreps said it’s difficult to figure out what is going on given the fact that many legal arguments
remain sealed. The council agreed to file an open-records request seeking the John Doe records
with Barker and Dreps abstaining and Westerberg not voting. b) Refusal to release
Milwaukee shooting video until the DA decides not to prosecute. Franzen noted that
Chicago also has been criticized for delaying such police shooting videos. Westerberg said North
Carolina had passed a law “chilling” on the public’s right to see police videos. Dreps criticized
the delayed release. [The videos are still being withheld, pending their use in a criminal
prosecution of the officer, filed in mid-December.] Ahmuty said DA John Chisholm was “sitting”
on videos of two officer-involved shootings. Lovejoy said there should be a statewide standard
on how to handle such videos. Ferguson mentioned that DOJ gets a lot of requests for advice on
how to handle police videos and how long to keep them. He said they’re being advised to handle
them like any other record. He mentioned that DOJ has software to “blur” parts of a video that
might violate privacy. He said many police are not sure how to handle these videos and they’re
seeking guidance. Ahmuty noted a bill that would have dictated how such videos would be
handled. Johnson said he’s been told that officers can erase videos if they do not file a report on
an incident. c) DOC scrapped then revived plan to destroy motivational interviewing
training videos. Lueders said the council opposes any records destructions. Westerberg noted
that the policy comes at the same time the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote about bad
Department of Corrections training videos. d) City of Milton ethics code. The council
discussed a Milton ordinance that bars council members from discussing issues from closed
session. Now a council member is facing sanction for discussion a session that involved her.
9) Other issues: The council discussed the following issues: Sealed court records related to an
attorney to committed suicide when facing child molestation charges; Westerberg discussed her
case against the DNR board which used a “walking quorum” to OK use of snowmobiles at Blue
Mound State Park.
10) Web site: No report.
11) Council membership. Jonathan Anderson from the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
and Tom Kamenick from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty were approved for
membership in WisFOIC.
12) Your Right to Know. Members discussed a variety of ideas for upcoming YRTK columns.
13) New business. The council discussed the fact that the Sheboygan Police Department is
using encrypted channels to keep the public from listening in. Lueders has spoken out on the
issue. The council set the next meeting for Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
14) Adjournment. Meeting was adjourned.