Open records by email, twitter next

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Open records seems to be one of the defining themes of this summer in Wisconsin. Although the Supreme Court 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. Moreover, there is now talk in the legislature of subjecting UW student governments to open records laws. Now in Dane County, the Board of Supervisors will soon be making it possible for people like you and me – people who don’t understand why “address” doesn’t have an @ symbol – to file open records requests by email.

Sup. Carousel Bayrd, of Madison, worked with the county executive’s office and Corporation Counsel Marcia MacKenzie on a proposal that for the first time addresses electronic records requests in county ordinances. “That’s the way people communicate these days,” Bayrd said. “You want accessibility to the government to be the easiest thing possible.”

Considering that twitter has become major news networks primary source of information, it would make sense if the board allowed records requests there as well. Wouldn’t it be great:

@UWadm request BBielma text msgs to co-eds.

Another point that is not addressed. Why should the county not require these standards for all of its towns and cities? Does county government not have the power to do that or is it just shying away? It looks like I might have to go hit the books on the issue…unless one of my wise readers could settle the question right here.

2 Responses to “Open records by email, twitter next”

  1. Andrew Wagner Says:

    Your question intrigued me…according to the Wisconsin State Statues, my read of http://www.legis.state.wi.us/statutes/Stat0059.pdf Ch. 59.03 seems to indicate that counties can only regulate municipalities if they are requested to do so or the municipality accepts a request by the county to regulate a matter.

    This only addresses practical matters of fire, water, sewage, etc. in the statues although it appears to allow for other issues depending on how the language is read.

  2. Ordinary Jill Says:

    A lot of small towns and cities have some older staffers who do not yet use email. Forcing them into the 21st century is not realistic. Yes, every town probably has at least one email-competent person on staff, but it would likely be perceived as unduly burdensome (and an “unfunded mandate”) to require municipalities to honor emailed open records requests. Making it too easy to request records also results in a need for more staff time to gather those records and make them available.

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