Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Minutes of the Jan. 19, 2012 meeting
Capital Newspapers auditorium
1) The meeting was called to order at 2:05 p.m. Attending were Dee Hall, Bob Dreps, Roger
Schneider, Tom Bier, Perry Boxx, Michael Buelow, Anita Weier, Steve Lovejoy, Doug Wojcik,
Dave Zweifel, Bob Drechsel, Mark Pitsch, Andy Hall, Bill Lueders, Gina Duwe, Christa
Westerberg and Beth Bennett.
2) Approval of minutes. The minutes for the Oct. 20, 2011 meeting were approved.
3) Treasurer’s report: Drechsel reported that he had sent out dues statements for the various
organizations. Current balance in the account is $3,681.84. No major expenses.
4) President’s report: Lueders reported the following:
a) The FOIC sent out a press release Oct. 27 decrying the arrests of people taking
photographs at the Capitol, saying it was contrary to the spirit of the open-meetings law;
b) FOIC also sent a letter to Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn protesting efforts by that
police department to keep photographers away from crime and incident scenes;
c) Watchdog awards. Lueders announced that FOIC had decided to give the late Dick
Wheeler its top award in the upcoming Watchdog Awards banquet April 25. Lueders said
Wheeler, who ran the Wheeler Report, “vigorously defended access to information and stood up
against the governor when he proposed to close the Capitol while the Legislature was in session”
– which Wheeler noted would violate the state Constitution. Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner
Walt Bogdanich has agreed to be the keynote speaker. Andy Hall, Pitsch, Lueders and
Westerberg agreed to head up planning for the dinner. Lueders also reminded the group that the
National Freedom of Information Summit would be in Madison May 11 and 12 at the Madison
Concourse and he urged everyone to go.
d) Senate Bill 292. Lueders recapped his testimony on this bill, which would have
removed the requirement that employers of campaign donors be disclosed. Lueders said he and
two chronic Capitol protesters were the only ones speaking against the bill. Members discussed
the need for Wis FOIC to spread the word about the negative effects of the bill possibly through
5) Council elections. Will be held at April meeting. Zweifel suggested that anyone who wants to
run for a position contact him.
6) Opee Awards: Members discussed a variety of nominees for the Public Opee, Media Opee,
Citizen Opee, Open Records Scoop of the Year and No Friend of Openness Award. A committee
of Lueders, Dee Hall, Schneider and Westerberg was established to finalize the choices.
7) Discussion: What should the council do regarding:
a) S.B. 292: Already discussed
b) Stalling of a state constitutional amendment to make the Legislature subject to the
open meetings law and Holperin’s bill to eliminate lawmakers’ exemptions from the records’
retention rules. Lueders suggested that, at the very least, reporters covering the upcoming
legislative races ask candidates about their positions on those two bills.
c) Petition to make the Board of Bar Examiners subject to openness laws by Bar member
Steve Levin. Both Westerberg and Dreps were skeptical that such a measure would do much
good. Westerberg said even if the group had to follow the openness laws, a lot of its work would
still be subject to exemption. And Dreps said the idea raises questions about violation of the
separation of powers, which allows the judiciary to run its own branch.
8) Legal update: Westerberg praised the decision ordering Juneau County to release unredacted
invoices to the Juneau County Star Times that relate to legal representation of the Juneau
County sheriff in a disciplinary matter. Juneau County is appealing the order. Westerberg also
reported that One Wisconsin Now had resolved its open records dispute with Sen. Alberta
Darling. The state will have to pay the group’s legal costs for its battle to get correspondence
between Darling and school choice advocates. Dreps and Westerberg also discussed the
Wisconsin Supreme Court’s acceptance of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel case challenging
the Milwaukee Police Department’s requirement that the newspaper pay thousands of dollars
for redaction of police disciplinary records. They also discussed the “very harsh language” with
which a federal appeals panel condemned Republican lawmakers’ secret redistricting process.
Dreps also said he has received calls on the legal hotline about public bodies holding secret
meetings to come up with new work rules in the wake of Act 10, which abolishes most collective
bargaining rights. He said it is “crystal clear” that such meetings are not allowed under the
law now that collective bargaining for most items has been abolished for most public workers.
Bennett said she would send an advisory to Wisconsin Newspaper Association members to look
out for such situations.
9) Other issues: Lueders directed members to review other news articles in the packet for other
FOI issues around the state. He also mentioned that the cost of requesting medical records
under the law is now $1 a page, up from 35 cents.
10) Website: Duwe mentioned the FOIC’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.
Bennett noted that WNA puts out a regular openness report with links to open-meetings and
open-records coverage in newspapers around the state and suggested that it be posted on the
site. There was discussion about creating audio or video versions as well and posting them on
the FOIC website. Duwe added that one of the most popular sections of the website deals with
open government problems, but is in badly need of update since it was last done in 2009.
11) Council members. Nothing new.
12) Your right to know column. Topics included releasing the names of the Opee Awards
winners in conjunction with Sunshine Week March 11-17 and discussion of the ongoing
problems of closed door meetings to devise new work rules under Act. 10. Members also
discussed the need to put out more publicity about the Watchdog Awards dinner and the
National FOI Summit. Pitsch said SPJ also may hold some sessions in conjunction with the FOI
13) Other business: Next meeting date was set for April 19, 2012 at 2 p.m.
14) Adjournment: Meeting was adjourned at 3:30 p.m.