We hope state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff has learned his lesson not to play politics with Wisconsin’s open records law.
And we urge Attorney General Brad Schimel to rethink his troubling appeal in a similar case involving the public’s right to know what its elected officials are up to.
Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, agreed last week to provide electronic copies of records the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty had requested last year. As part of a settlement that will avoid further legal action and expense, the state also will pay WILL’s legal fees of about $1,800.
We’re glad Brostoff finally agreed to quit wasting state tax dollars for no good reason — other than trying to frustrate his political opponents, who were legitimately seeking public information.
Brostoff is liberal, and WILL is conservative. But the state’s open records law shouldn’t allow public officials to pick and choose who gets to see public documents and who does not. State leaders should apply transparency rules uniformly, regardless of the requester’s identity or opinions.
Brostoff had stubbornly refused to release emails about occupational licensing changes in their electronic form. Doing so would have made it much easier to search and analyze the records, and less expensive to copy.
Instead, Brostoff demanded $3,239 in fees for printing reams of emails onto paper. Obviously, such action was intended to thwart public scrutiny of Brostoff’s communications as a public official.
We’re glad Brostoff has reversed his position so the records are easily available to all, and so state taxpayers can be spared further cost.
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Now it’s Rep. Scott Krug’s turn to do the same thing. Krug, R-Nekoosa, similarly refused to provide public documents electronically to Bill Lueders, managing editor of The Progressive magazine.
Lueders asked for records related to state water issues on a flash drive, email folder or compact disc. Krug instead provided paper documents for review and charged for paper copies.
A Dane County judge wisely ruled that Krug must make some 1,500 emails available electronically, which is less expensive and more useful for the requester.
Attorney General Schimel, a Republican who has represented lawmakers in both cases, agreed to release Brostoff’s records electronically. But he is oddly appealing the release of Krug’s, which is disappointing.
The courts should put an end to these partisan games being played with public records by members of both political parties. Public official across Wisconsin should be told loud and clear that requests for government documents in electronic formats should be granted to save time and money for everyone involved, including taxpayers.