At Boots and Sabers, Owen writes about the West Bend School district’s recent denial of a records request.
In the school district’s letter denying the request, the district alludes to the motivations of the person who made the request as a reason to deny it:
“…in light of the prior questions you have asked, the questions posed here and your public records request directed at XXXXXX, the District questions what legitimate interest is being served by these inquiries.
A core value of those who advocate public access to governmental information is that it’s a bad, bad idea when government agencies assess the motivations of those who ask for records when determining whether or not to provide them. In most states, it is explicitly against the state sunshine laws to consider requester motivation.
In that case, a male police officer (Hal Hempel) sought documents from the Baraboo Police Department pertaining to an internal investigation it had conducted regarding complaints against Hempel from female police officers alleging a pattern of harrassment. Hempel was denied the documents by the police department and ultimately also by a circuit court and the state’s supreme court.
In its decision, the state supreme court said:
“In fact, requesters under the Open Records Law need not identify themselves, or state a purpose for their request. Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(i). When performing a balancing test, however, a records custodian almost inevitably must evaluate context to some degree.”
Is it just me, or does the second sentence of this opinion conflict with the first sentence?
West Bend School District denies open records request, a post from the person who made the request.