Minutes of Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council Meeting October 26, 2017
Capital Newspapers Auditorium
Minutes taken by FOIC member Orville Seymer
1. Call to order and introductions. In attendance: Mark Pitsch, Kyle Geissler, Doug Wojcik, Mike King, Ernie Franzen, Katie Dean, Ivan Moreno, Bob Dreps, Christa Westerberg, Bill Lueders, April Barker, Tom Kamenick, John Foust, Jason Joyce, Larry Gallup, Paul Ferguson, Rebecca Ballweg, Tom Bier.
2. Approval of minutes from July 13, 2017: Minutes approved
3. Treasurer’s Report: Report approved
4. President’s Report
a) Madison Teacher/WERC amicus brief; FOIC share of costs will be less than $2,000.
b) WCCA changes: Decisions on limited access to records of dismissed cases now rests with Director of State Courts Randy Koschnick.
c) Website revisions are still a work in progress.
d) 2018 is Council’s 40th year. There will be some events planned around this with a possible fundraising opportunity.
e) OPEE nominations will be gathered at January meeting.
5. Report on National Freedom of Information Coalition Summit in Nashville: John Foust reported that many states have the same issues as Wisconsin. And there was an effort to track open records requests in numerous states along with the issue of archiving text messages.
6. Legislative news: AB 351, regarding police body cameras: at the public hearing on this bill, most law enforcement were in favor of restricting access and police would need written consent from all individuals involved including the potential property owner before releasing the video. AB 448, regarding advance notice of Joint Finance Committee actions: state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk sent a letter in support of this bill. Positive changes were made to Assembly Jnt. Res. 53, to enshrine victims rights in the state Constitution. WNA-backed bill to require bodies to going into closed session to make an audio recording of their meeting will be introduced in November.
7. Legal update—Madison Teachers v WERC Case is set for oral arguments on Dec. 5. Open Meetings violation by DNR re: a snowmobile trail, Christa Westerberg noted that this should be quickly resolved. Hagen v Board of Regents orders the release of records against professor’s wishes. Request was made in March, the judge ruled on the issue in Sept. and now it is in appeals. Kemper Center of Kenosha—Mr. Ralph Ehlinger, the attorney involved in this case, appeared before the Council. Kemper is a 501(c)(3) catering organization. He reported that this was a very loosely run organization and the record keeping was not very good. Kemper had an agreement with the county and they received $100,000 annually from the county board. Kemper was never self sustaining and it has been run like a county park. This presented a possible end run around the open records law by counties and municipalities. The courts ruled that Kemper resembled a government organization and this case was very similar to the Beaver Dam case. But ruling is being appealed. In another matter, an appeals court rules that UW animal care and use committees must be provided.
8. Issue for discussion: What to do when custodians break the law? Case at hand concerned a Sauk County official who refused to release records until after decisions about them were made. Bob Dreps spoke about a case that he litigated and lost to the Doyle Administration. After stalling and delaying the Doyle admin, provided the records in conjunction with the appointment of the judge. Other states have hard and fast dates for release of records but this can make it difficult for custodians.
9. Issue for discussion: When governments sue records requesters. Village of Allouez threatens to sue a citizen requester. Bob Dreps and others made it very clear that this practice cannot happen but there was concern about the perception this gave to average citizens who may make a request for records.
10. Concerns about anti-drone laws: Michael King expressed concern about FAA rule PAR 107, which can restrict when, where and how drone flying for news photography can occur. Local law enforcement can make it difficult for local news organization to fly drones over crime sciences and the penalties can be very severe. This issue could be a future “Right to Know” column.
11. Other issues: Discussion about a state agency withholding the names of public assistance recipients who testified at a public hearing.
Next meeting will be Jan. 25, 2018, 2 pm.