Open Records and Meetings Watchdog Files Complaint Against State Board

December 14, 2015

Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council filed a complaint today against a state board, accusing it of violating the state’s open meetings law when it decided that state officials do not have to retain text messages and other so-called transitory records.

The complaint was filed with the Dane County District Attorney’s Office against the eight-member Public Records Board, which is appointed by the governor, attorney general and other state officials to oversee the preservation and handling of state government records.

The board voted in August to change the definition of “transitory correspondence,” effectively making it so that state officials do not have to retain those kinds of records. The new definition includes “emails to schedule or confirm meetings or events, committee agendas and minutes received by members on a distribution list, interim files, tracking and control files, recordings used for training purposes and ad hoc reports for individual use.”

The board’s decision means that citizens and media who file open records requests may not get information contained in text messages, emails and other electronic communications between public employees.

A day after the board’s decision, the Walker administration appeared to use the board’s action to deny a newspaper text messages in its open records request for information on a $500,000 state loan to a business owned by a major campaign contributor to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.