Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

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Jan. 11, 2007

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Minutes for Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council Jan. 11, 2007

Capital Newspapers Board Room, Madison, Wisconsin

Present: Peter Fox, John Ingebritsen, Michael Buelow, Roger Schneider, Anita Weier, Tom Bier, Dick Record, Rebecca Mason, Bob Dreps, Bruce Gill, Dee Hall, Bob Drechsel, Tim Kelley, Sid Schwartz, Bill Lueders, Craig Swanson, Dave Zweifel, Bob Welch, Christa Westerberg, John Laabs.

Meeting called to order at 1:35 p.m.

President Bill Lueders proposed a new committee structure:

Web site
(Members recommended and who agreed to serve on it: Sid Schwartz, Michael Buelow, Tim Kelley, Jennifer Peterson and Bob Drechsel)

Finance
(Members: Peter Fox, John Laabs, Bill Lueders, Christa Westerberg, Dick Mial)

Police Records
Bob Dreps, Ann Frisch, George Stanley, John Ingebritsen, Craig Swanson, Peter Fox

Awards Committee and outreach
(Members: Bill Lueders, Dee Hall, Anita Weir, Tom Bier)

Council planned to approve openness awards at its April 19 meeting.

Open government awards. Members agreed to consider at the next meeting nominees for these awards:
SCOPEE: open records scoop of the year
DOPEE: dumbest open government ruling
NOPEE: open government foe of the year
COPEE: citizen openness advocate of the year
POPEE: political openness advocate of the year
MOPEE: media openness advocate of the year

Open government Litigation

Portage Daily Register case. This is a dispute with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department over a record sent from the Sheriff’s Department to the District Attorney. The case centers around flyers that were distributed alleging that one candidate for sheriff would be less effective because his daughter had been arrested for drugs.
    The legal issue in appeal was whether simply saying a report had been send was enough to keep the investigation report secret. Bob Dreps says he believes sit raises fundamental issues, and Peter Fox said the case is a high priority for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Zien-Gunderson case involving a bill draft shared with supporters of the bill but not the attorney general is before Judge Flanagan in Dane County. Peter Fox said Florida has a provision that legislative bill drafts shared with others do become a public document. Bob Welch noted that in the Legislature, this case is looked at in terms of attorney-client privilege. Dreps said the big concern on the openness side is that one side gets to see the bill and the other does not.

Stone case: summary judgment brief in March.

Busalacchi case goes to trial Feb. 12.

Buswell case had a hearing Jan. 11.

Legislative Council committees
Expungement of criminal records chairman doesn’t agree with the work of the committee. This issue is probably going nowhere.

In another issue, members discussed a proposed media alert that Michael Buelow submitted regarding a provision in the Government Accountability Board bill that would impose penalties – including jail time - for officials who leak information about cases. After discussion, the following “action alert” was sent out to members and media:

“Investigators, prosecutors, members and employees of a newly proposed Government Accountability Board, would face fines of up to $10,000 and nine months in jail for releasing information about an ongoing finance, elections, ethics or lobbying investigation, prosecution or other regulatory matter being conducted by the board, prior to presentation of the information or record in a court of law.
    “The penalty appears unparalleled by any that applies to other state or local agencies in Wisconsin.
    “This provision is part of a draft of a bipartisan reform proposal worked out between Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and members of the Legislature. The proposed, released earlier today, is expected to reach the governor’s desk by the end of the month.
    “Imposing criminal penalties for breaking the secrecy rule would likely discourage the enforcement board from providing information about legitimate concerns or facts about a governmental body charged with investigating allegations of misconduct involving public officials.
    “The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council considers the provision to be of questionable necessity, and worries that it could prompt other governmental bodies to adopt similar penalties.
    “We urge newspaper and broadcast editors to learn more about this and other open records provisions in the proposal and inform their readers and listeners.”

The meeting was adjourned at 3:40 p.m.

Submitted by Dick Mial, secretary of the FOIC.