Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Oct. 22, 2015 meeting
Capital Newspapers Auditorium
1) Call to order. The meeting was called to order. In attendance were Dee Hall, Bob Dreps, Gina Duwe, Orville Seymer, Michael Buelow, Tom Bier, Andy Hall, Mark Pitsch, Doug Glass, Bob Drechsel, Bill Lueders, April Barker, Christa Westerberg and Steve Lovejoy.
Guests were Attorney General Brad Schimel, Paul Ferguson, Anne Schwartz, Mary Bottari, Paul Johnson, Chris Ahmuty, Dustin Brown, Johnny Koremenos and George Hesselberg.
2) Approval of minutes from 7/23/15 meeting. Minutes were changed on #15 to “foundations” rather than “donations.”
3) Treasurer’s report. Drechsel reported donations from some members of the public.
4) President’s report. a) Lueders reported on the Open Government Summit held by AG Brad Schimel July 29. Lueders asked Schimel which “deliberative records” would be shielded from the public under some proposals. Schimel said it would depend whether the drafts were internal or external within a legislative office. He said he believes email back and forth between offices before something is made public shouldn’t be public. Barker suggest the public is the “ultimate employer.” Dreps said there is a difference between a draft and records that are part of the deliberative process. He said he couldn’t think of a “single instance” in which revealing such records has created a problem. b) Legislative wish list. Lueders said the list published on the FOIC website has been updated and a new item added, calling for the author of any legislation or bill amendment to be clearly identified. c) Lueders mentioned CCAP sign-in now requires CAPTCHA. d) The Watchdog Awards will be Weds., April 20. A. Hall said the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism may organize training in investigative reporting and open records. e) Lueders recapped the action alert on a bill ending disclosure of employers of those giving campaign donations, saying it would be more difficult to tie donations to interest groups. Lueders said the proposal “came up in a “flash” with no hearing or discussion.
5) [see below]
6) Legislative news. Lueders noted ongoing efforts by Assembly Speaker Vos to restrict public access to records. Dems push resolutions to make the Legislature follow the open meetings law; Dreps said lawmakers can now make and break their own rules.
7) Legal update. Dreps discuss the oral arguments before the state Supreme Court on the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act. Westerberg said Dreps uttered the “greatest line in oral argument history” arguing “on the issue of federal law, the cheese should not stand alone.” A Dane County judge OK’d sealing some DNR disciplinary records. There was discussion about the lawsuit by the Center for Media & Democracy and The Progressive challenging denial of records by the Walker administration that are “preliminary analysis and deliberations.” Several other cases also were discussed. Schimel also was asked about DOJ’s legal effort to keep training videos from his tenure as a DA private. He said releasing them could discourage participants’ willingness to candidly discuss issues and possibly traumatize people who are victims of sensitive crimes. Schimel said such training sessions are not open to the public and the videos should be withheld under the balancing test. He said such videos could reveal the police “playbook” to criminals. Paul Johnson mentioned a blog by a former police officer that only law enforcement can access. Schimel said that also should be shielded from public view. Lueders noted that Schimel’s agency is not representing Walker’s office in the CMD/Progressive lawsuit. Schimel declined to comment on that.
8) Issue for discussion. Westerberg noted DNR is posting records online but redacting them without explaining reasons for redactions. She also noted that the agency is taking “months” to respond to public-records requests.
9) Issue for discussion. Should the Council join with SPJ in launching an Open Government Traveling Show tour of Wisconsin cities? Pitsch suggested SPJ and FOIC tour six to eight cities for 90-minute presentations boosting public records and openness. Pitsch noted the general public and a variety of groups on the left and right rose up to oppose changes to the public-records law. He suggested FOIC should try to sustain the momentum.
10) Other issues. Dane County judge orders release of ex-fire chief’s disciplinary records. Wood County seeks to shield performance evaluations of public officials, drawing a sharp rebuke from Gannett. Open meetings violations are alleged in a Sheboygan School District plan to sell property. A State Journal editorial takes Obama to task for a “sad record on open government.”
(taken out of order) 5) National FOIC Summit in Denver. Council co-Vice President April Barker reported the conference gave her “tons of good ideas.” Much discussion was around what to do with video from police body cams and when the cams should be on or off. Schwartz mentioned that the International Association of Chiefs of Police would be discussing the issue. Barker said summit members discussed best practices for archiving electronic information. She said some FOIC groups have raised money through training, among other ideas for building a financial base for FOIC groups, including soliciting donations from frequent requesters and companies that use public information and data. Lueders suggested a finance committee of Andy Hall, Barker, and Haynes.
(taken out of order) 14)Website. Duwe said she and Foust are recommending that FOIC move to WordPress from Drupal for the website. A. Hall noted WCIJ uses WordPress.
12) Council membership . Lueders will invite Doug Glass to become a Council member.
13) Your Right To Know column. Various topics were discussed including a column on losing employer disclosure of campaign donors and government employees using personal email for public business. Members also discussed how to get wider circulation of the YRTK column. A. Hall offered to help distribute it.
14) Other business. The next meeting was set for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 14.