Free speech victory in the Badger State


We used to be called “Squeaky Clean Wisconsin.” A 1970 review of the Wisconsin legislature called Wisconsin one of the most transparent and modernized state governments in America. So it was encouraging to see that the tradition will continue with the latest Supreme Court ruling.

Although you may soon no longer be able to text message while you drive, you will be able to have access to the names of state employees, whether or not they are members of unions. In a 6-1 decision, the state supreme court ruled in favor of a newspaper attempting to get the records and names of certain state employees.

However, the Court did not assert that the Doyle administration’s attempt to hide the names of state workers was unconstitutional, as many open government advocates would like to believe. It simply said that because the Open Records Act had not been amended to create an exemption for state workers, they were still subject to the law.

The issue at the origin of the case was, like many in Wisconsin, drunk driving. The Journal-Sentinel had requested a list of employees who are no longer allowed to drive state vehicles. The idea, I assume, was to see if the state’s “prohibited list” matched up with drunk driving records. In a separate request, the Lakeland Times asked to see the salaries of employees in the Dept. of Natural Resources.

It touched a soft spot when George Stanley, managing editor of the Journal-Sentinel, cited the taxpayer’s right to know how much corrections officers are making in overtime pay. True muckraking about the prison system in this state would be humiliating for legislators, unions and prison contractors. As well as for the last three governors of the state.

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5 Responses to “Free speech victory in the Badger State”

  1. Zach Says:

    Yep, this is a victory!

    Now any client who might have an axe to grind because I sent him to prison can easily find out where I live!

    Victory at last!

    • The Sconz Says:

      Zach are you a prosecutor? Do you know that the open records law requires addresses?

      • Zach Says:

        I’m all for transparency in government, but I also think there needs to be reasonable limits, such as protecting the privacy of individuals who may find themselves targeted by the very criminals they prosecute, arrest, supervise, etc.

        Case in point….I used to supervise one of the individuals involved with Milwaukee’s “Body Snatchers” organization, and as I was taking him into custody to send him to jail for a few years, he told me I really just didn’t know how dangerous he really was. Is that a guy I want being able to get my address through an open records request?

  2. Steve Baker Says:

    if you’re a prosecutor and you put me in jail, are you assu
    ing that under current law it’s going to be hard for me to find out where you live? Give us the specifics. How have you been safe I’m the past, and how is that compromised now?

  3. Open records by email, twitter next « The Sconz Says:

    […] rebuked efforts to subject teachers’ emails to open records requests, it still ruled that the identities and records of state employees must also be made available to the public. Now in Dane County, the Board of Supervisors will soon be making it possible for people like you […]

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