Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Minutes of the Oct. 20, 2011 meeting
Capital Newspapers auditorium
1) The meeting was called to order at 1:35 p.m. Present were Dee Hall, Bob Dreps, Mike Mulvey,
Mark Pitsch, Dave Pyle, Perry Boxx, Michael Buelow, Doug Wojcik, Tom Bier, Anita Weier,
Christa Westerberg, Bill Lueders, Andy Hall, Bob Drechsel, Dave Zweifel and Chris Hardie (on
2) Approval of minutes. Minutes from the July 14, 2011 meeting approved.
3) Treasurer’s report. Bob Drechsel presented the treasurer’s report. The balance in the account
is $3,700 after payments from WNA and WBA for wallet cards.
4) President’s report:
a) Madison was selected for the National Freedom of Information Coalition National meeting in
2012 (discussion to follow.)
b) The video project has hit a roadblock and Erica Salkin was unable to finish it. The board
discussed getting someone else at UW-Madison to finish the project. Pyle suggested seeking
money from NFOIC. Andy Hall suggested that Drechsel supervise the project.
c) The council discussed the State Bar of Wisconsin petition to the Supreme Court to make
changes to the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website. Westerberg summarized the proposal
in a February 2010 column. Lueders reported that the Legislative Council committee headed by
Rep. Ed Brooks has shelved another WCCA proposal, which he said was fortuitous. Lueders said
the Supreme Court proposal was more “draconian” than the changes being considered by the
5) Watchdog awards. The council weighed a call to add SPJ as sponsors of the watchdog awards
along with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and Wis. FOIC. Pitsch said SPJ
revived its local chapter about 10 months ago and would like to participate as a full partner in
the awards, including helping to pick winners. The idea received informal unanimous support.
The board also discussed the Watchdog award for lifetime achievement. Nominees included
Mike McCabe and/or the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign; Lynn Adelman, a former lawmaker
who was instrumental in passing the open meetings and open records laws; Tony Galli, an
investigative reporter with WKOW-TV in Madison; Laura Olah, a citizen activist who pushed for
clean up of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant; retired Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter
Steve Walters; MJS managing editor George Stanley for his work to build and sustain the
newspaper’s watchdog team; and Deborah Blum, UW-Madison professor and Pulitzer Prize
winner. Andy Hall suggested that the person or group should demonstrate “extraordinary
commitment” to open government and investigative reporting in Wisconsin. Lueders mentioned
that the April 25 banquet coincides with the Daily Cardinal’s 120th anniversary celebration. The
board agreed to have four people – two reps from FOIC plus a rep from WCIJ and SPJ – make
4) Lueders wanted to the council to decide what action to take regarding:
a) The proposed constitutional amendment and internal rule change to make the Legislature
subject to the open meetings law. The group agreed that even if the proposals are not viable, the
council should support them.
b) A proposed bill to make lawmakers’ records and correspondence subject to the open-records
c) A proposed bill to end the requirement that political donors identify their employers;
d) A proposal that would end the requirement that legal notices be printed and instead allow
Dreps noted that any internal rule could not be enforced since it’s up to the Legislature
whether to follow its own rules. Boxx and Bier suggested the current legal notice requirement
is expensive for governments and that posting on the Internet allows wider distribution. Pyle
added that legal notices are about 1 percent of newspapers’ revenues. Dreps suggested that the
council support the proposal by Rep. Holperin to require retention of legislators’ records.
(Out of order) Denise Meyers from the National FOIC introduced herself. She said the national
conference would bring about 80 people to Madison, with about 20-30 locals attending. She
suggested getting students involved in the meeting. Meyers said NFOIC’s goal is to have at
least one rep from each state. Meyers said the Wisconsin chapter will be asked to help with
local promotion and programming. Lueders said dates were still being discussed, either first or
second weekend of May. The national meeting primarily entails a full day of workshops. Some of
the suggestions included a panel on local government issues and covering Scott Walker. Lueders
said members would be solicited for ideas for panels and speakers. Westerberg suggested a Your
Right to Know column about the meeting as the event gets closer.
7) Lueders, Dreps and Westerberg discussed several ongoing and recently concluded FOIC
cases. Dreps said he was disappointed with the WIAA decision that allows the athletic
conference to restrict media coverage of its tournaments; discussed the ongoing fight between
the Milwaukee JS and the Milwaukee PD regarding copying costs for records. The Ashland
Daily Press won its fight for the superintendent’s evaluation by the Bayfield School Board after
the superintendent did not object. The Fond du Lac Reporter won its fight to get disciplinary
records of a FDL police officer; Dreps also reported that the Milwaukee JS won its bid to see
records of a John Doe investigation into an alleged misuse of public funds by a former assistant
district attorney; Westerberg reported on the successful effort by the Racine Journal Times
to get records from the village of Mount Pleasant about why it fired its administrator; Hardie
mentioned a La Crosse case accepted by the state Supreme Court that asks whether the La
Crosse Tribune can recover fees when a Circuit Court judge fails to respond to an open-records
request in a timely manner; Pitsch updated the board on the Wisconsin State Journal’s efforts to
get the “sick notes’ handed in by teachers during the Capitol protests. The issue revolves around
how much redaction the district will be allowed to do.
8) Buelow reported on the state’s “contract sunshine” website, currently run by the Government
Accountability Board. Effort is underway to move it to the state Department of Administration
and require all spending above $100 to be reported. The site would be significantly improved
to include names of those paid under contracts, copies of checks and other information. The
target date is July 2013. As of late August, DOA still had not determined how it would collect
the information. It planned to report on its progress in mid-January.
9) Pyle reported that one of his reporters at AP, Dinesh Ramde, was chased off of the scene of a
fatal accident by police. The board discussed publishing a Your Right to Know column about the
increasing incidences of obstructing journalists, especially photojournalists.
10) Web site. Lueders – no report.
11) Your Right to Know columns. Pitsch offered a retrospective on Gov. Walker’s openness.
Other topics suggested include one on Holperin’s bill and another about the watchdog awards.
12) Council membership. No changes.
13) Other business including next meeting date. Andy Hall asked for guidance on the Capitol
correspondents’ bylaws that may affect Lueders’ ability to speak about legislation. Pitsch
mentioned that members are concerned that some people involved in the Capitol protests were
improperly seeking press credentials. Andy Hall said he was hoping to get an exception to the
bylaws for reporters working on behalf of open-records and open-meetings issues.
Next meeting date: Jan. 19.
14) The meeting was adjourned at 3:35 p.m.