Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Jan. 19, 2017
Capital Newspapers Auditorium
1. Call to order. The meeting was called to order at 2:07 p.m. In attendance were Dee J. Hall, Tom Kamenick, Neil Johnson, Larry Gallup, Jonathan Anderson, Orville Seymer, Beth Bennett, Andy Hall, Mark Pitsch, Kyle Geissler, Sean Dwyer, Bob Drechsel, Tom Bier, Rusty Cunningham, Bob Dreps, Christa Westerberg, Bill Lueders, Ernie Franzen, Dustin Brown, Paul Ferguson, Chris (staff from DOJ), Molly Collins, Sheila Plotkin, Mary Bottari and Rebecca Ballweg. April Barker appeared by speakerphone.
2. Minutes. Minutes from the 10-12-16 meeting were approved.
3. Treasurer’s report. Drechsel presented the report, which showed a $4,974 balance.
4. President’s report: a) FOIC joined WNA and WBA in filing an amicus brief in the Appleton open meetings case and requesting that AG Schimel do the same. b) The council’s request for opening up records in the John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker was controversial and ultimately denied. c) Council, WNA and WBA also file amicus brief in case seeking ICE records from Milwaukee Co. Sheriff David Clarke. d) Watchdog Awards will be March 30, 2017; Sunshine week is March 12-18. e) The open government traveling show hits the road again in March. f) Milwaukee Magazine donates proceeds from Jan. 9 event to the Council. (Next item not on the agenda): Lueders said the Milton City Council has invited FOIC to make a presentation Feb. 22 or 23 about open meetings and open records as part of a settlement of an ethics charge.
5. Legislative news. WCCA Oversight Committee holds meeting Dec. 20. Next is Feb. 14. There was some discussion about whether to charge per year/per record to help support the system. Leg Council Study Committee on reducing recidivism calls for changes to expungement. Another study committee is backing continued requirement that legal notices be published in newspapers. (Next item not on agenda) Bennett passed out drafts of a bill that would require verbatim records of closed sessions, similar to systems in IA and IL; she also circulated drafts of a second bill to require all police incident reports to include certain information. Brown noted that the appeals court decision on the New Richmond police records case was favorable but offered no broad fix. Pitsch said SPJ will continue to back bill protecting independence of school journalists.
6. Legal update. Kamenick praised the WNA/WBA/FOIC amicus brief written by Barker and said the AG had also chimed in with support for the Appleton plaintiff. Kamenick said the school district is arguing that even staff meetings would have to be posted and open to the public if the plaintiff wins. On a different case, Seymer reporter that Thomas Woznicki had dropped his challenge to release of his personnel records. Lueders said coach Bo Ryan’s former girlfriend filed a suit against UW saying she should have been notified of impending records release about her relationship with Ryan. The group discussed the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that allows AG Schimel to continue to shield training videos requested by the state Democratic Party from public release. In backing Schimel, Justice Rebecca Bradley noted that the requester’s motivation was political; Lueders said motivation should not be part of the equation.
7. Issue for discussion. Police body cameras. The group discussed a policy in Chicago requiring that video of police-involved shootings be released within 60 days of the incident. Westerberg said the national FOIC found that approach helps public confidence and takes decisions out of the hands of law enforcement. Seymer discussed his requests for body cam policies from various agencies. Lueders said there should be a statewide standard on releasing such videos.
8. Opee awards. The council discussed several candidates for the annual Opee Awards for openness in government. The winners will be honored at the Watchdog Awards.
9. Other issues. DNR revisits and reaffirms its controversial decision to allow snowmobiles in Blue Mound State Park after being sued for alleged open meetings violations in making the decision. A Columbia Journalism Review writer calls for heavy use of FOIA under Trump.
10. Website. No report.
11. Council membership. Neil Johnson will replace Gina Duwe on the council.
12. Your Right to Know column. The groups discussed possible ideas for upcoming YRTK columns.
13. Other business. Bennett said WNA will send out information about member rates for attending its upcoming Feb. 23 and 24 annual convention. The Council’s next meeting date was set for Thurs., April 20, at 2 p.m.
14. Adjourn. The council adjourned the meeting.