Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Minutes of the Oct. 16, 2007 meeting,
Capital Newspapers, Madison, Wis.
Present: Dick Mial, John Ingebritsen, Peter Fox, Roger Schneider, Christa Westerberg, Tom Bier, Dee Hall, Bob Welch, Randy Winter, Bruce Gill, Doug Wojcik, Gina Duwe, Bob Drechsel, Anita Weier, Michael Buelow, Ann Frisch, Rebecca Mason, Bill Lueders, Bob Dreps, Michelle Vetterkind, Craig Swanson, John Vander Meer, Tim Kelley.
Meeting called to order at 1:35 p.m.
Minutes and Treasurer’s report were approved.
Bill Lueders said the Attorney General’s office’s open records/open meetings seminars book up very quickly. He suggested having a production company videotape the Oct. 29 meeting in Madison, and it could be posted on the Web. The cost would be $500.
The AG’s office declined to distribute FOIC open meetings/open records cards.
The attorney general and the press:
There was a discussion about Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s urging the media not to ask Crandon community members questions following a mass shooting there, and urging the community not to talk to the press. Peter Fox got about a dozen e-mails after being quoted by The Associated Press in a story about the case. Most of the comments were about aggressive journalists, and some were very specific. For example, one complained about a younger female reporter who passed for a high school students to get into Crandon High School. Another reporter untruthfully got into a restricted meeting. Fox said when he was editor in Racine, a Midwest Express plane crashed in Oak Creek in 1985. There were two incidents in which journalists untruthfully tried to get access to the crash site. He suggested “maybe there’s a story up there in Crandon about covering ourselves.” Randy Winter of WAOW in Wausau, said people won’t speak to his reporters any more as a result of Van Hollen’s urging. Only one person was still speaking to his reporters. Dee Hall commented about the “chilling effect of police telling people not to talk to the press.”
Court cases and possible legislation:
Bob Dreps reported there is an appeals court decision pending on a Portage Daily Register issue on the balancing test on a simple incident report. Hopefully that will provide helpful context on this issue. Peter Fox suggested that AP bring this up at its spring meeting, and get a consensus about the possibility of moving forward with changes to the open records law. It was suggested that Van Hollen be asked to develop a uniform document that police departments have to release about incidents. Lueders suggesting reaching out to Rep. Mark Gundrum about the possibility of a revision of the law or the creation of a uniform document that always has to be released.
On the subject of a revision of the open records law, Dreps talked about how the Minnesota statute formalizes incident and arrest data. And there is a form that every department has to keep, so that information is standardized and people know what to expect in every community in the state. Fox said former legislator and Wisconsin Newspaper Association executive Randall Radtke shopped the Minnesota model around to police associations and they expressed some interest in the idea.
In other cases, the Gunderson/Zien case about bill drafts continues in the Court of Appeals. Dreps is representing plaintiff Peg Lautenschlager, the former AG who filed an appeal. The AG’s office, citing the trial court ruling in the Gunderson/Zien case, has decided to drop a case against Rep. Stone for refusing to allow Milwaukee County to see a draft of a bill to privatize Mitchell Field airport (a county facility).
State Supreme Court cases: The WireData case (assessment data done by a private contractor), the Sands case and the Beaver Dam Development Corp. case all are briefed.
On the possible shield law for journalists, the council was given a white paper written by Dave Zweifel, Rep. Joseph Parisi has asked the Legislative Reference Bureau to prepare a bill draft, which was sent to Dreps’ office. Parisi aide Vander Meer said Dreps provided a model shield law that was helpful in coming up with a bill draft. He said there is a need to protect journalists and whistle blowers. Peter Fox suggested reaching out to helpful supporters such as AARP, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and others. There is movement on a federal shield law, which could pre-empt the need for state legislation. Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold support a shield law. In the House, Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Paul Ryan are co-sponsors. Dreps said Rep. Parisi wants a consensus that this is something we want, and to identify arguments against it.
Assembly Bill 418, which would have restricted access to public court records on the Internet, failed to attract a Senate sponsor and is presumed dead.
Peter Fox talked about the need for a bill to require that public bodies record closed meetings and retain the copies of it.
Bill Lueders noted that the FOIC needs a vice president. He said anyone interested in the position should write to him.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.
– Submitted by Dick Mial, FOIC secretary.