Lawsuit Filed Over Open Records Format

It will be interesting to see the results of this suit.

Bill Lueders, the president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and a longtime reporter, filed a suit against Krug (R-Nekoosa) on Friday in Dane County after the legislator refused to provide him with an electronic copy of records in addition to paper copies. Electronic copies are easier to search through than paper copies.

The open records law must be “construed in every instance with a presumption of complete public access, consistent with the conduct of governmental business,” according to the state statute.

“We think that it is clear that requesters are entitled to records in electronic format. I was told ‘no,’ and I think that’s a problem,” Lueders said.

In an emailed statement, Krug said that since he was elected in 2010, he has “fully complied” with all open records requests his office has received.

“The open records request from Bill Lueders was properly fulfilled and followed the law,” he said.

This has been an annoyance of mine for years. Every time I do an open records request for emails, they responding body insists on printing them even though I always ask for them in electronic format. One government body told me once that they do that because they make a copy of what they give me to make sure they have a record of what was given to me – just in case I decide to alter it or something. That seems like a pretty flimsy excuse.

I’ve always suspected that the real reason is to make it more of a pain for people asking for records. A government body is entitled to charge the person asking for records for reasonable fees associated with fulfilling the request. This is often 25 ot 50 cents per printed page, so a request that totals a few thousand pages can really add up quickly. Also, as Lueders points out, it makes it impossible to search through documents for key words and such.

So while Krug is right in so far as he did comply with the law and did do it in such a way that is commonplace across Wisconsin, the normal way in which open records requests are answered is unnecessarily difficult for citizens