Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Minutes of the April 19, 2012 meeting
Capital Newspapers auditorium
1) The meeting was called to order at 2:10 p.m. In attendance were Dee Hall, Mark
Pitsch, Beth Bennett, Bob Dreps, Chris Hardie, Michael Buelow, Doug Wojcik, Dave Zweifel,
Bob Drechsel, Bill Lueders, Christa Westerberg, Andy Hall, Steve Lovejoy and Gina Duwe and
guests Edward Kuharski, Barb With and Nicole Schulte from the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op.
2) Approval of minutes. The minutes for the Jan. 19, 2012 meeting were approved.
3) Treasurer’s report. Drechsel presented the report showing a balance of $3,600.
Expenditures included $165 for tickets to the Watchdog Awards dinner for Gwyn Guenther and
her husband, who planned to accept an award on behalf of Guenther’s late father, Dick Wheeler.
4) President’s report.
a) Lueders urged everyone to attend the April 25 annual Watchdog Awards. He also
urged attendance and coverage of the May 11-12 National Freedom of Information Summit in
b) Lueders said the FOIC had sent a letter asking the attorney general to reconsider his
opinion that courts can charge $1.25 a page for copies even when the requester takes photos of
c) Lueders presented a Post-Crescent story recapping some of the winners of WisFOIC’s
Opee Awards. He also noted that the national Society of Professional Journalists had given the
Wisconsin Legislature its “black hole” award for its lack of openness in 2011.
d) The president said a former police officer has offered to help the FOIC with
investigative services because of his support for open government.
5) Council elections. The board voted on its officers for the next two years. All officers won
re-election: Lueders as president; Westerberg as vice president; Dee Hall as secretary and
Drechsel as treasurer. Lueders also announced that council member Lovejoy had received an
ethics award from the UW-Madison School of Journalism’s ethics center named after late UW
alum Anthony Shadid.
6) Contract sunshine. Buelow reported that the new contract sunshine website was not
yet up and running. It is now supposed to show “checkbook entry level” spending data for
state agencies, as well as employee pay and benefit information. He said DOA plans to phase
in the information with the goal of having it functional by the end of 2012. Buelow said the
information is supposed to be downloadable.
7) Future projects. Lueders suggested the following future projects:
a) Advocate for a law requiring taping of closed sessions. Such tapes could
be reviewed by judges in the case an open-meetings challenge is made. Bennett said a similar
requirement was passed in Illinois but it took eight years to get through the Legislature. Dreps
said current law has no safeguards to keep public bodies from straying into prohibited territory
during closed sessions. A project suggested by Hardie was pushing for a law that would set time
limits on open-records request responses; Bennett mentioned that some states have an “access
counselor” or ombudsman to resolve open-government disputes without litigation; Dreps said
he’s wary of giving an ombudsman power over the “loosey-goosey” system in Wisconsin for fear
that bad precedent could be set; Kuharski of the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op complained
about his experience with the Department of Administration and the Capitol Police giving what
he considered improper excuses for not providing records; Lueders asked whether inviting
“tinkering” with the open-records and open-meetings laws could make things less open; Lueders
suggested the council start with the proposal to tape executive sessions.
b) Create broadcast versions of “Your Right to Know” columns. Lueders said
he would discuss with our broadcast members how to approach that.
8) What should the council do regarding:
a) Allegations that staff for then-Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker set up a secret
email account for campaign purposes. Dreps suggested waiting until the ongoing John Doe
investigation plays out to decide what to do.
b) Tech college’s refusal to send electronic copies of certain records. No action taken.
c) A Washburn County School Board’s decision to create a charter school raises
questions about whether such schools must abide by open-records and open-meetings laws. No
9) Legal update. La Crosse Tribune loses its cases over access to mental health records of
a convicted killer. Hardie said the Court of Appeals “missed the point” of the newspaper’s
litigation, which was to get terms of the killer’s release, not his mental health records. The
Wisconsin Supreme Court agrees to hear the Juneau County case regarding records of legal bills;
the Milwaukee case on fees for redactions is still pending; and Dreps settles cases for the Post-
Crescent on excessive fees and the Portage Daily Register on denial of access to performance
10) Review of a variety of news stories in packet covering open-government issues.
11) Website. Duwe thanked John Foust for his help in updating the website.
12) Your Right to Know column. Westerberg said she will write a column on the upcoming
national FOIC summit. Other topics included the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel case; candidates’
track records when it comes to open records.
13) Other business. With of the Wisconsin Citizens Media Co-op discussed her group, which
formed during the protests at the Capitol to cover events and issues that the group felt weren’t
being covered by the mainstream media. Schulte said she had been harassed and intimidated by
legislative staff as she sought to videotape goings-on at the Capitol.
The next meeting was set for 2 p.m. July 24, later changed to July 12.
14) Meeting was adjourned.