Wisconsin State Legislature – Statute 19.31

19.31 Declaration of policy. In recognition of the fact that a representative government is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be the public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them. Further, providing persons with such information is declared to be an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of officers and employees whose responsibility it is to provide such information. To that end, ss. 19.32 to 19.37 shall be construed in every instance with a presumption of complete public access, consistent with the conduct of governmental business. The denial of public access generally is contrary to the public interest, and only in an exceptional case may access be denied.
History: 1981 c. 335, 391.
An agency cannot promulgate an administrative rule that creates an exception to the open records law. Chavala v. Bubolz, 204 Wis. 2d 82, 552 N.W.2d 892 (Ct. App. 1996), 95-3120.
Although the requester referred to the federal freedom of information act, a letter that clearly described open records and had all the earmarkings of an open records request was in fact an open records request and triggered, at minimum, a duty to respond. ECO, Inc. v. City of Elkhorn, 2002 WI App 302, 259 Wis. 2d 276, 655 N.W.2d 510, 02-0216.
The public records law addresses the duty to disclose records; it does not address the duty to retain records. An agency’s alleged failure to keep sought-after records may not be attacked under the public records law. Section 19.21 relates to records retention and is not a part of the public records law. Gehl v. Connors, 2007 WI App 238, 306 Wis. 2d 247, 742 N.W.2d 530, 06-2455.
The Wisconsin public records law. 67 MLR 65 (1983).
Municipal responsibility under the Wisconsin revised public records law. Maloney. WBB Jan. 1983.
The public records law and the Wisconsin department of revenue. Boykoff. WBB Dec. 1983.
The Wis. open records act: an update on issues. Trubek and Foley. WBB Aug. 1986.
Toward a More Open and Accountable Government: A Call For Optimal Disclosure Under the Wisconsin Open Records Law. Roang. 1994 WLR 719.
Wisconsin’s Public-Records Law: Preserving the Presumption of Complete Public Access in the Age of Electronic Records. Holcomb & Isaac. 2008 WLR 515.
Getting the Best of Both Worlds: Open Government and Economic Development. Westerberg. Wis. Law. Feb. 2009.

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