Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

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April 10, 2008

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Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

Minutes of the April 10, 2008 meeting,

Capital Newspapers, Madison, Wis.

Present: John Intebritsen, Michael Buelow, Ann Frisch, Diane Martin, Anita Weier, Dave Zweifel, Peter Fox, Doug Wojcik, Roger Schneider, Bob Welch, Michelle Vetterkind, Christa Westerberg, Thomas Koetting, Gordon Govier, Bill Lueders, Bob Drechsel, Bob Dreps, Katy Reeder, Jim Mueller, Tim Kelley.

Meeting called to order at 1:30 p.m. 

Minutes and treasurer's report were approved. 

Tom Koetting of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said a few words about council member Bruce Gill of the Journal Sentinel staff, who died earlier this year. He was, in Koetting's words, "a tremendous fighter for First Amendment rights, who educated public officials about openness." 

President's report: President Bill Lueders noted that the FOIC was taking on more of a role on Amicus briefs. Peter Fox cautioned that money can go pretty quickly with Amicus briefs, and that we need to get a clear picture about what FOIC wants to be involved in. Lueders noted that Sunshine Week took place in March, and the Lakeland Times in Minocqua, Wis., did a good background story. The shield law proposal for Wisconsin went nowhere in the last session and its author, Rep. Joe Parisi, said he will introduce it again next session. Rep. Marlin Schneider said Wisconsin needs a law requiring that people who routinely use the CCAP court records Web site should be required to tell job applicants, people seeking rentals and others that they are screening them online. Bob Dreps said there would be a problem enforcing such a law. 

This is the 30th anniversary of the FOIC in October, and that would be a good topic for a "Right to know" column. Lueders also said he has been reaching out to the Wisconsin Private Investigators Association, which has concerns about how the HPPA health privacy law is frustrating their ability to check workers compensation claims. 

Peter Fox of the WNA asked if someone from the FOIC could assist with the task of sorting out stories for the WNA's clipping service. Stories with significant FOI emphasis could be put on the FOIC Web site. Tim Kelley agreed to do this. 

Election of officers: Members of the FOIC elected the following officers by acclamation for the coming year: President Bill Lueders, Vice President Christa Westerberg, Secretary Dick Mial, and Treasurer Bob Drechsel. 

Legal update: Watton v. Hegerty, involves access to police reports involving involuntary commitment of someone also charged with a crime. Under the Breier case, the public has a right to know who is arrested and why. But that principle does not necessarily hold in mental health issues. [On July 1, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the party seeking release of the police reports.] 

The Attorney General opinion on the Driver Protection Act is still pending. Clerks are withholding information on traffic issues. Media agencies asked for the AG opinion [subsequently issued.] 

Legislative update: Peter Fox said it was a very good session "because we stopped a lot of things." Among them: The Lassa/Voss bill (S.B. 458 and A.B. 754) would have restricted access to CCAP. It didn't go anywhere, but will likely be back in the next session. In another case, Gannett Wisconsin was posting real estate sale records on its Web site. The Department of Revenue got gun shy because mistakes were made on the site. The Wisconsin Realtors Association also was concerned. The governor signed a bill that real estate information is open to the public and free. 

Doug Wojcik passed around an excerpt from a book about the rights of photographers. Since then, he and Christa Westerberg have worked with Lueders on a Wisconsin Photographers Bill of Rights. 

The meeting was adjourned at 3:05 p.m.  

Submitted by Dick Mial, FOIC Secretary.