Walker: Judge’s Ruling Clarifies Open Records Law In Wisconsin

A Dane County Judge Ordered Walker's Office To Release Emails Last Week

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Gov. Scott Walker says a court order that directed his office to release records on proposed changes to the University of Wisconsin System’s mission statement has clarified what his administration must share with the public.

A Dane County judged ruled on Friday that Walker’s office had to release a series of emails and email attachments discussing the proposed removal of the so-called “Wisconsin Idea” from the UW System’s official mission last year.

“I think, for us, it’s very clear what the courts have said. That was debatable before, and so this made it clear,” Walker said on Tuesday. “Anything you write down, even if it’s just notes, in terms of discussion, is all available for open records.”

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The governor’s office had previously refused to release the messages, saying they were part of a “deliberative process” and could have a chilling effect on legislative debate.

Open records advocates are heralding the judge’s decision as an important one for open records laws in Wisconsin.

“It clearly shuts down the efforts that some records custodians have made to declare that certain records don’t have to be released because they’re just working out ideas,” said Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Lueders said open records are the best way the Walker administration can build trust with the public.