Open records watchdogs and clean government advocates call responses by Madison school officials to open records inquires “ugly.”
A recent report distributed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and published in the Wisconsin State Journal says the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) would not fulfill a request for information about public records without payment. Responding to a specific request, filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), the Madison district required a payment of more than $1,000 to provide the requested information.
WILL attorneys Tom Kamenick and Libby Sobic say large school districts like Madison and Milwaukee “need to devote more resources to complying with open records law.”
According to an attorney representing MMSD, the Madison district does not have a system in place for tracking open records requests, hence its extremely high price in this case.
Writing in the Wisconsin State Journal, Kamenick says that while records custodians are allowed to charge fees for locating records, schools districts that need so much time to locate records are apparently not doing a good job of tracking requests.
“It should not be so hard to find out how well any government entity complies with the law,” Kamenick said.
WILL filed requests with Wisconsin’s 20 largest school districts asking for average response times related to open records inquires. Most of the districts provided the information without cost and quickly. Average response times were less than 15 business days for most districts.
The WILL report cites measurable improvements at many state agencies during recent years and suggests school districts use similar processes to improve response times.
[Sources: Wisconsin State Journal; Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty; schoolinfosyatem.org]