Local readers may have heard, as I have heard, that area officials know that there are ways around municipal ordinances and school district policies on open government. There’s no surprise in hearing this: there is no human construct that cannot be circumvented; there are few professing a public interest who do not simultaneously feel the pull of self-interest.
Imagine how unfortunate it must be, for some, to see open government as a burden, obstacle, or threat. On the contrary, like a church or library, an environment of open government should, properly, comfort and inspire.
For today, it’s useful to list in full the City of Whitewater’s Municipal Code, Chapter 2.62 (Whitewater Transparency Enhancement Ordinance) & Municipal Code, Chapter 2.66 (Public Records), the Whitewater Unified School District’s policies on open government, and state statutes on open meetings and public records.
Policies, ordinances, and statues are different, of course. That’s a subject for another day. In any event, digital publishing affords nearly unlimited space, so one can, easily, be methodical and thorough.
➤ City of Whitewater’s Municipal Code, Chapter 2.62 (Whitewater Transparency Enhancement Ordinance):
2.62.010 – Purpose.
The purpose of this chapter is to maximize public awareness and participation in City of Whitewater Government. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)
2.62.020 – Posting requirements.
(a) Agenda notices for all council, committee, commission and board meetings, requiring legal notice, shall be posted seventy-two hours in advance. If an agenda item is added between twenty-four and seventy-two hours prior to the meeting, it shall require an affirmative vote of a majority of the members voting to take up the matter. (b) All council, committee, commission and board agendas shall be posted online on the city website seventy-two hours in advance of the meeting. (c) All council, committee, commission and board packet materials, that can be reasonably scanned, shall be posted online twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting. The city shall provide an electronic notification feed alert, indicating that new information is available regarding an upcoming council, committee, commission or board meeting, to any party that has subscribed to the feed (requested notice from the city of the updated information). (d) All requests for proposals and requests for bids shall be posted online as soon as is practicable. (e) The council and all committee, commission and board meeting minutes shall be posted online within thirty days of the meeting. If the body does not meet within thirty days of the meeting, the minutes shall be posted within fourteen days of the next meeting. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)
2.62.030 – Information technology requirements.
Beginning December 1, 2010, city council, community development authority, plan commission and police commission meetings shall be videotaped, and the video shall be posted online. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)
2.62.040 – Meeting procedures.
(a) All council, committee, commission and board meetings shall have a public input agenda item to allow citizens to make statements on matters that are not on the agenda. (b) All council, committee, commission and boards shall allow the public an opportunity to comment on substantive items on the meeting agenda. The council, committee, commission or board shall have the discretion to impose time limits and other reasonable procedural rules concerning the public comment. (c) If the agenda for a council, committee, commission or board meeting includes staff reports or other reports, a specific description of the item to be reported on shall be listed on the agenda and said report(s) shall be limited to the specific items listed in the agenda. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)
2.62.050 – Failure to abide by chapter provisions does not cause actions to be invalid.
The failure by any council, committee, commission or board to adhere to the provisions of this chapter shall not cause any action by said council, committee, commission or board to be invalid. (Ord. No. 1804A, § 1, 10-5-2010)
➤ City of Whitewater’s Municipal Code, Chapter 2.66 (Public Records):
Chapter 2.66 – Public Records
2.66.010 – Definitions.
[The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:]
“Authority” means any of the following city entities having custody of a city record: an office, elected official, agency, board, commission, committee, council, department or public body corporate and politic created by constitution, law, ordinance, rule or order, or a formally constituted subunit of the foregoing.
“Custodian” means that officer, department head, division head, or employee of the city designated under Section 2.66.030 or otherwise responsible by law to keep and preserve any city records or file, deposit or keep such records in his or her office, or who is lawfully in possession or entitled to possession of such public records and who is required by this section to respond to requests for access to such records.
“Record” means any material on which written, drawn, printed, spoken, visual or electromagnetic information is recorded or preserved, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which has been created or is being kept by an authority. Record includes, but is not limited to, handwritten, typed or printed pages, maps, charts, photographs, films, recordings, tapes (including computer tapes), and computer printouts. Record does not include drafts, notes, preliminary computations and like materials prepared for the originator’s personal use or prepared by the originator in the name of a person for whom the originator is working; materials which are purely the personal property of the custodian and have no relation to his or her office; materials to which access is limited by copyright, patent or bequest; and published materials in the possession of an authority other than a public library which are available for sale, or which are available for inspection at a public library. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
(a) Except as provided under Section 2.66.070, each officer and employee of the city shall safely keep and preserve all records received from his or her predecessor or other persons and required by law to be filed, deposited or kept in his or her office or which are in the lawful possession or control of the officer or employee or his or her deputies, or to the possession or control of which he or she or they may be lawfully entitled as such officers or employees. (b) Upon the expiration of an officer’s term of office or an employee’s term of employment, or whenever the office or position of employment becomes vacant, each such officer or employee shall deliver to his or her successor all records then in his or her custody and the successor shall receipt therefore to the officer or employee, who shall file the receipt with the city clerk. If a vacancy occurs before a successor is selected or qualifies, such records shall be delivered to and receipted for by the clerk, on behalf of the successor, to be delivered to such successor upon the latter’s receipt.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
2.66.030 – Legal custodian(s).
(a) Each elected official is the legal custodian of his or her records and the records of his or her office, but the official may designate an employee of his or her staff to act as the legal custodian. (b) Unless otherwise prohibited by law, the city clerk or the clerk’s designee shall act as legal custodian for the common council and for any committees, commissions, boards, or other authorities created by ordinance or resolution of the common council. (c) For every authority not specified in subsections (a) or (b) of this section, the authority’s chief administrative officer is the legal custodian for the authority, but the officer may designate an employee of his or her staff to act as the legal custodian. (d) Each legal custodian shall name a person to act as legal custodian in his or her absence or the absence of his or her designee. (e) The legal custodian shall have full legal power to render decisions and to carry out the duties of an authority under Subchapter 11 of Chapter 19 of the Wisconsin Statutes and this section. The designation of a legal custodian does not affect the powers and duties of an authority under this section.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
2.66.040 – Public access to records.
(a) Except as provided in Section 2.66.060, any person has a right to inspect a record and to make or receive a copy of any record as provided in Wis. Stats. § 19.35(1). (b) Records will be available for inspection and copying during all regular office hours. (c) A requester shall be permitted to use facilities comparable to those available to city employees to inspect, copy or abstract a record. (d) The legal custodian may require supervision during inspection or may impose other reasonable restrictions on the manner of access to an original record if the record is irreplaceable or easily damaged. (e) A requester shall be charged a fee to defray the cost of locating and copying records as follows: (1) The cost of photocopying each page shall be set by the city clerk and set forth on a schedule which shall be kept in the clerk’s office. Any increase as determined by the clerk shall be subject to the approval of the common council. The cost will be calculated not to exceed the actual, necessary and direct cost of reproduction. (2) If the form of a written record does not permit copying, the actual and necessary cost of photographing and photographic processing shall be charged. (3) The actual full cost of providing a copy of other records not in printed form on paper, such as films, computer printouts and audiotapes or videotapes, shall be charged. (4) If mailing or shipping is necessary, the actual cost thereof shall also be charged. (5) There shall be no charge for locating a record unless the actual cost therefor exceeds fifty dollars, in which case the actual cost shall be determined by the legal custodian and billed to the requester. (6) The legal custodian shall estimate the cost of all applicable fees and may require a cash deposit adequate to assure payment, if such estimate exceeds five dollars. (7) Elected and appointed officials of the city shall not be required to pay for public records they may reasonably require for the proper performance of their official duties. (8) The legal custodian may provide copies of a record without charge or at a reduced charge where he or she determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest. (f) Pursuant to Wis. Stats. § 19.34, and the guidelines therein listed, each authority shall adopt, prominently display and make available for inspection and copying at its offices, for the guidance of the public, a notice containing a description of its organization and the established times and places at which, the legal custodian from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information and access to records in its custody, make requests for records, or obtain copies of records, and costs thereof.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
2.66.050 – Access procedures.
(a) A request to inspect or copy a record shall be made to the legal custodian. A request shall be deemed sufficient if it reasonably describes the requested record or the information requested. However, a request for a record without a reasonable limitation as to subject matter or length of time represented by the record does not constitute a sufficient request. A request may be made orally, but a request must be in writing before an action to enforce the request is commenced under Wis. Stats § 19.37. Except as provided below, no request may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling to be identified or to state the purpose of the request. No request may be refused because the request is received by mail, unless prepayment of a fee is required under Subsection 2.66.040(e)(6). A requester may be required to show acceptable identification whenever the requested record is kept at a private residence or whenever security reasons or federal law or regulations so require. (b) Each custodian, upon request for any record, shall as soon as practicable and without delay, either fill the request or notify the requester of the authority’s determination to deny the request in whole or in part and the reasons therefore. If the legal custodian, after conferring with the city attorney, determines that a written request is so general as to be unduly time consuming, the party making the request may first be required to itemize his or her request in a manner which would permit reasonable compliance. (c) A request for a record may be denied as provided in Section 2.66.060. If a request is made orally, the request may be denied orally unless a demand for a written statement of the reasons denying the request is made by the requester within five business days of the oral denial. If a written request is denied in whole or in part, the requester shall receive a written statement of the reasons, for denying the request. Every written denial of a request shall inform the requester that if the request for the record was made in writing, then the determination is subject to review upon petition for a writ of mandamus under Wis. Stats. § 19.37(1), or upon application to the attorney general or a district attorney. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
2.66.060 – Limitations on right to access.
(a) As provided by Wis. Stats. § 19.36, the following records are exempt from inspection under this section: (1) Records specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal law or authorized to be exempted from disclosure by state law; (2) Any record relating to investigative information obtained for law enforcement purposes if federal law or regulations require exemption from disclosure or if exemption from disclosure is a condition to receipt of aids by the state; (3) Computer programs, although the material used as input for a computer program or the material produced as a product of the computer program is subject to inspection; and (4) A record of any portion of a record containing information qualifying as a common law trade secret. (b) As provided by Wis. Stats. § 43.30, public library circulation records are exempt from inspection under this section. (c) In responding to a request for inspection or copying of a record which is not specifically exempt from disclosure, the legal custodian, after conferring with the city attorney, may deny the request, in whole or in part, only if he or she determines that the harm to the public interest resulting from disclosure would outweigh the public interest in full access to the requested record. Examples of matters for which disclosure may be refused include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) Records obtained under official pledges of confidentiality which were necessary and given in order to obtain the information contained in them; (2) Records of current deliberations after a quasi-judicial hearing; (3) Records of current deliberations concerning employment, dismissal, promotion, demotion, compensation, performance, or discipline or any city officer or employee, or the investigation of charges against a city officer or employee, unless such officer or employee consents to such disclosure; (4) Records concerning current strategy for crime detection or prevention; (5) Records of current deliberations or negotiations on the purchase of city property, investing of city funds, or other city business whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require nondisclosure; (6) Financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons which, if disclosed, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such history or data; (7) Communications between legal counsel for the city and any officer, agent or employee of the city, when advice is being rendered concerning strategy with respect to current litigation in which the city or any of its officers, agents or employees is or is likely to become involved, or communications which are privileged under Wis. Stats. § 905.03. (d) If a record contains information that may be made public and information that may not be made public, the custodian of the record shall provide the information that may be made public and delete the information that may not be made public from the record before release. The custodian shall confer with the city attorney prior to releasing any such record and shall follow the guidance of the city attorney when separating out the exempt material. If, in the judgment of the custodian and the city attorney, there is no feasible way to separate the exempt material from the nonexempt material without unreasonably jeopardizing nondisclosure of the exempt material, the entire record shall be withheld from disclosure.
(Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
2.66.070 – Destruction of public records.
City officers may destroy records of which they are the legal custodians and which are considered obsolete but not less than seven years after the record was effective unless a specific period of time is provided by the Wisconsin Statutes.
(1) Prior to the destruction of any public records, at least sixty days’ notice in writing shall be given the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The historical society may upon application, waive such notice. (2) Notwithstanding any minimum period of time for retention set forth above, any taped recording of a meeting, as defined in Wis. Stats. § 19.82(2), by any governmental body, as defined under Wis. Stats. § 19.82(1), of the city may be destroyed no sooner than one year after the minutes have been approved and published if the purpose of the recording was to make minutes of the meeting. (3) Transcripts of Tape Recordings of Municipal Court Trials. Audio tape recordings of trials or juvenile matters in municipal court shall be kept until the time has expired for taking an appeal of such matters to the Circuit Court of Walworth County or Jefferson County. Upon the expiration of such period, city officers are empowered to dispose of, erase, destroy or reuse any such audio tapes; and to destroy any written duplicate copies of transcripts made from such tapes. (4) Municipal Court, Traffic, Juvenile or Ordinance Violation Case Files. All court papers or written court records in the possession of the municipal court or the city police department in proceedings commenced by the issuance of municipal court citations or pleadings shall be kept for six years after the entry of final judgment. (5) All police dispatch audio tapes shall be kept for thirty days except those tapes that cover significant incidents. Tapes covering significant incidents will be retained seven years after the incident is closed. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
2.66.080 – Preservation through microfilm.
Any city officer, or the director of any department or division of city government may, subject to the approval of the common council, keep and preserve public records in his or her possession by means of microfilm or other photographic reproduction method. Such records shall meet the standards for photographic reproduction set forth in Wis. Stats. §§ 16.61(7)(a) and (b) and shall be considered original records for all purposes. Such records shall be preserved along with other files of the department or division and shall be open to public inspection and copying according to the provisions of state law and of Sections 2.66.040 through 2.66.060 of this chapter. (Ord. No. 1782A, 5-4-2010)
➤ Policies of the Whitewater Unified School District, from 800 – School Community Relations – Reviewed by Policy Review Committee in 2015-16:
822.1 Broadcasting and Taping of Board Meeting
Regular and special School Board meetings shall be broadcast live to community residents, when possible. Videotapes of these meetings will be made available to the Whitewater Public Library. They shall also be accessible to the public in accordance with state law and Board policy.
Adopted by School Board: September 26, 1988
Revisions Adopted by School Board: December 18, 2000
823 Access to Public Records
The School Board shall allow persons to have access to District records in accordance with this policy, established District procedures and state and federal laws.
The District Administrator is designated as the legal custodian of records for any District authority, except that the building principal is designated legal custodian for records of students in each individual school attendance center. The legal custodian shall safely keep and preserve records of the authority and shall have full legal power to render decisions and carry out duties related to those public records maintained by any District authority. The legal custodian may deny access to records only in accordance with state and federal law.
Public records may be inspected, copied and/or abstracted at any time during established District office hours. The legal custodian may establish fees in accordance with state and federal law. A list of such fees shall be made available at the District office.
823-Exhibit, Notice to the Public Regarding Access to Records
NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC REGARDING ACCESS TO RECORDS
The School Board has designated the District Administrator as the legal custodian for all Whitewater Unified School District records, which include all records of the School Board, Board officers, and any committees or other authorities created by resolution of the Board. Building principals shall serve as the legal custodians of student records in their assigned schools.
The public may obtain information and access to records, make requests for records, or obtain copies of records in the custody of the District at the following places and times:
419 South Elizabeth Street
Whitewater, WI 53190
Regular office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or as otherwise posted. There are no office hours on holidays that are scheduled school vacation days.
Lakeview Elementary School
W8363 R & W Townline Road
Lincoln Inquiry Charter School
242 South Prince St.
Washington Elementary School
506 East Main St.
Whitewater Middle School
401 South Elizabeth St.
Whitewater High School
534 South Elizabeth St.
Regular office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or as otherwise posted. There are no office hours on holidays that are scheduled school vacation days.
If the District Administrator is not present, information and access to records may be obtained from the Director of Business Services, who is authorized to act as legal custodian in the District Administrator’s absence.
Record requests shall be reviewed and acted upon in accordance with state law.
In applying the provisions of the public records law, the positions identified as “Local Public Offices “ within the District include: School Board members, District Administrator, Building Principals, Director of Business Services, and Director of Pupil Services.
A fee will be imposed upon a record requestor for the actual, necessary and direct cost of:
• Reproduction of the record – 5 cents per copy and $20 per hour,
• Mailing or shipping of the record to the requestor, and
• Locating a record if the actual, necessary and direct cost of locating the record exceeds $50.00.
The legal custodian of records may waive the fee or reduce the fee when it is determined to be in the public interest.
Adopted by School Board: December 19, 2011