Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

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Oct. 14, 2010

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Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Minutes of Oct. 14, 2010 meeting
Capital Newspapers auditorium

1) Call to order and introductions. Meeting was called to order at 1:30 p.m. Present were Dee Hall, Anita Weier, Bob Dreps, Perry Boxx, Tom Bier, Dave Zweifel, Doug Wojcik, Roger Schneider, John Dye, Beth Bennett, Gina Duwe, Bob Drechsel, Erica Salkin (guest), Thomas Koetting, Christa Westerberg, Bill Lueders, Andy Hall, Mark Pitsch and Chris Hardie (attending by telephone.)

2) Review of minutes of July 15, 2010 meeting. Minutes approved.

3) Treasurer’s report. Dreschel presented the report, which showed a balance of $3,650.92. The major expense was $1,721.31 for legal fees in the Sands case.

4) President’s report. Lueders discussed ongoing attempts to limit online court records access by the Supreme Court. The Legislative Council is reviewing the issue. He said the Ken Kratz case could  present an opportunity to push for openness by the Office of Lawyer Regulation. Right now, such complaints are secret until and unless formal ethical charges are filed. He also discussed the planned April 19 awards dinner with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Lueders said the National Freedom of Information Council is considering Madison for its 2012 convention.

5) FOIC Legislative watch. Bennett suggested that FOIC consider pushing for a bill that would require closed sessions be videotaped. Dreps suggested that in addition to pushing for OLR to be more open, WisFOIC should try to open up the secretive process for disciplining judges. Bills that would have improved access to statements of economic interest, government records held by contractors, WIAA events and probes by the Government Accountability Board didn’t advance.

(taken out of order)

7) Erica Salkin presented information about the educational video she’s putting together geared toward high school students. She estimated the cost at $15,000.
(taken out of order)

8) Legal update. Dreps mentioned a Lake Geneva case in which reporters were seeking records of  former aldermen. The request was denied since the officials weren’t in office. He said in some cases, records are required to be turned over to successors, such as court clerks, but most offices have no such requirement. Council members discussed the lack of uniformity in how officials’ e-mail is treated. The Capital Times lawsuit against Gov. Jim Doyle is on appeal. Doyle delayed releasing records to avoid scrutiny of a judicial appointee. The trial judge found there’s no remedy in state law for delays. The council also discussed the sometimes high fees charged for public records requests. Hardie discussed a La Crosse case in which the newspaper is seeking sealed records in a petition for release that have been denied for medical privacy reasons.

6) What should the council position be on online court records? Lueders and Westerberg discussed the options presented to the Supreme Court including expanding expunction, reducing the retention time for records, hiding certain fields in online records and making the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access unsearchable by name and/or other fields. After a lengthy discussion, the council said it could support requiring employers who search WCCA to notify job applicants; improving the warnings and disclaimers against job discrimination; enhancing  penalties for job discrimination based on criminal history; and calling for research into the extent of the problem of discrimination. WisFOIC also cited the need to educate the Legislative Council on the value of keeping WCCA as it is. Westerberg said the council likely will need to compromise.

9) Other issues. The council discussed a variety of issues including a Milwaukee County proposal to fine supervisors who talk about closed sessions.

10) Statewide media coordinators list. Wojcik is updating with help from the Supreme Court.

11) Web site. Duwe reported WisFOIC now has 80 friends on Facebook and looking for more. :)

12) Council membership. Lueders introduced new member Perry Boxx of Channel 27 News.

13) Your Right to Know. Ideas for future columns were discussed, including the need for searchable government databases, electronic archiving of public records and openness in the OLR and Judicial Commission.

14) Other business. Next meeting will be Jan. 20, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. at Capital Newspapers. 1

5) Adjourn. The meeting was adjourned at 3:33 p.m.