FREE WHITEWATER

Public Records Request, 5.20.19

Update on the afternoon of 5.20.19:  A email response from Dr. Elworthy and my reply —

 

Dear John,

I am in receipt of your records request regarding any audio or video recording of the 5.13.19 Whitewater Unified School District board meeting, including a recording of only part of the full session. The City of Whitewater was noticed about our meeting, but no recording was made Therefore, an audio or video recording does not exist.

I know open government is important to you. The written minutes will be approved at the May 28th meeting. If you have any questions or concerns on specific agenda items, I would be happy to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,

Mark

Mark Elworthy, Ed. D

District Administrator
Whitewater Unified School District
262-472-8708
Twitter – @Mark_Elworthy
District Video on Why Whitewater? – https://youtu.be/Af7b0MrWUGk

Dear Dr. Elworthy,

Thank you for your quick response.

It’s disappointing, of course, to hear that there was no recording of the meeting, and that City of Whitewater officials did not record it for the District.

It’s worth reminding, however, that the Whitewater Unified School District’s own policy, at 822.1, commits the WUSD – without the aid of a third party – to “[r]ecordings of Board meetings [that] will be made available online. They will also be accessible to the public in accordance with state law and Board policy.”

There is no better record than a recording. The gap between a brief summary and a full recording is a notably qualitative one. It’s kind of you to answer any particular agenda questions that I might have, but open government requires more than the spooning of information only to those who inquire after it.

There are some efforts deserving of persistence; open government is among them.

Best wishes for a happy Memorial Day holiday,

Adams


Original post:

Here is a public records request that I submitted to the Whitewater Unified School District this morning.  A methodical approach is a sound one.  See Steps for Blogging on a Policy or Proposal.

The request appears below:

Dr. Mark Elworthy, District Administrator
Whitewater Unified School District
419 S. Elizabeth Street
Whitewater, WI 53190
melworthy@wwusd.org

Re: School Board Video of 5.13.19

Dear Dr. Elworthy:

I am writing to you in your role as records custodian for the Whitewater Unified School District (WUSD Board Policy 823). Pursuant to Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31 et seq., I hereby request that you provide any records within the custody or control of the Whitewater Unified School District concerning the subject listed below:

Any audio or video recording of the 5.13.19 Whitewater Unified School District board meeting, including a recording of only part of the full session.

I request that the recordings be provided without charge pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 19.35(3)(e). A waiver of processing and copying charges in this case is in the public interest. As you know, WUSD Board Policy 822.1, “Broadcasting and Taping of Board Meeting,” provides that “Regular and special School Board meetings will be broadcast live to community residents when possible. Recordings of Board meetings will be made available online. They will also be accessible to the public in accordance with state law and Board policy.”

These records concern public matters, and are not sought for commercial use.

If the Whitewater Unified School District chooses to assert a charge for a request concerning public matters, non-commercial use, and in fulfillment of the WUSD Board’s own policies, please submit any proposed charge at the email address listed below. Wisconsin Public Records Law Compliance Guide 61-63 (November 2015).

I will accept posting online as fulfillment of this request concerning any full or partial audio or video recording. If the Whitewater Unified School District declines to post any available audio or video records online, they may be sent to me at an online Dropbox account I will provide for you upon your request.

If any material responsive to this request is deemed to be exempt from disclosure, please identify the material withheld and specify the asserted basis for the exemption. Please release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material.

Note that Wisconsin law requires that requested documents be produced “as soon as practicable and without delay.” Wis. Stat. § 19.35(4)(a). The Wisconsin Department of Justice policy provides that 10 days is ordinarily a reasonable time for response to an open records request. Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Public Records Law Compliance Guide at 15 (November 2015).

If you have any questions about this request, please feel free to contact me at adams@freewhitewater.com

Yours,

JOHN ADAMS
freewhitewater.com

cc: Jodie TenPass, jtenpass@wwusd.org.

6 comments for “Public Records Request, 5.20.19

  1. J
    05/20/2019 at 3:32 PM

    This a fascinating exchange. The district wants to be helpful in a certain limited way, but the point in reply is that the best help is a full recording. It’s not even about help but about meeting a transparent standard. This kind of reply is the essence of an open government position.

    Here is a question. Does this school board even care?

    • JOHN ADAMS
      05/20/2019 at 7:53 PM

      More particularly, any meeting of more than a few minutes produces information in excess of an agenda’s mere outline; assuming that one should base questions only on agenda items significantly constrains one’s understanding. One might have five agenda items, for example, but scores of points of discussion during a meeting.

      Agenda items, or even notes, represent only a fraction of a full discussion. Memorializing that full discussion in a recording is not a favor from the government; it’s an obligation in any free society with the ready means of video or audio recording.

      One can’t say what the school board thinks of this. They have a policy, one that can be easily and reliably effected, with the smallest of efforts.

  2. Attendee
    05/20/2019 at 3:44 PM

    Good request, good post.

  3. LL
    05/20/2019 at 4:12 PM

    right. someone in the disyrict must have their own camcorder because other school stuff gets online!

    • JOHN ADAMS
      05/20/2019 at 8:01 PM

      Yes. Each day, millions of ordinary Americans take their cell phones or video cameras and record parties, sports, adventures, and meetings. They place these recordings online, for public viewing. They do so at little expense. There is no taxpayer-funded public body in this city that should not be able to do as well, or better, than that.

  4. A Town Squire
    05/21/2019 at 11:55 AM

    OK, but not OK. People in Whitewater should not have to ask for what we should get automatically. Everyone on this board knows better than that. If no one shows up they need a way to film it themselves. They knew it was not being filmed.

    Hey guys we pay taxes and you need to follow policies.