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Board backs away from open records rule changes

By: Associated Press//December 17, 2015//

Board backs away from open records rule changes

By: Associated Press//December 17, 2015//

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin officials backed away Thursday from a move to cut back on record-keeping requirements amid a backlash by open government advocates.

The board that oversees state public records will instead revisit its August vote changing the definition of so-called transitory records, such as texts and other messages deemed to have only temporary value. Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has used the changes to deny requests for text messages and records of visits to the governor’s mansion.

The Public Records Board’s chairman, Matthew Blessing, made the announcement just three days after the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council filed a complaint with the Dane County district attorney alleging the board had violated the state’s open meetings law during its Aug. 24 meeting when it approved the changes, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Blessing said he hopes the move to revisit the changes at an upcoming meeting will avoid an expensive court battle. He didn’t say when that meeting will be held.

The council’s president, Bill Lueders, contended in the complaint that the board failed to provide adequate notice of the meeting’s subject matter in the agenda, then failed to record the actions taken, such as motions and roll call votes, in the meeting’s minutes.

Lueders applauded the board’s move on Thursday.

“I think the chair is doing the right thing, in taking a step back and asking that this decision be revisited,” he said. “I hope the board goes a step further and rescinds its expansion of the definition of transitory records. And I hope it goes a step beyond that and makes it clear to state officials that they cannot broadly apply this language to destroy text messages and visitors logs of public interest.”


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