The Wisconsin State Journal | Hand over public records electronically

The Wisconsin State Journal weighs in on our dispute with State Representative Brostoff, urging a more open and less costly approach to government records.

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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