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Public Records Request Policy

ARTICLE V.  PUBLIC RECORDS*

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*State law references: Public records, Wis. Stats. § 19.31 et seq.

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Sec. 2-311.  Definitions.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Authority means any office, elected or appointed official, agency, board, commission, committee, council, municipal court, department or public body corporate and politic created by constitution, law, ordinance, rule or order; or a formally constituted subunit of the foregoing having custody of a village record.

Custodian means that officer, department head, division head, or employee of the village designated under section 2-313 or otherwise responsible by law to keep and preserve any village records or file, deposit or keep such records in his office, or is lawfully in possession or entitled to possession of such public records and who is required by this section to respond to requests for access to such records.

Record means any material on which written, drawn, printed, spoken, visual or electromagnetic information is recorded or preserved, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which has been created or is being kept by an authority. Record includes, but is not limited to, handwritten, typed or printed pages, maps, charts, photographs, films, recordings, tapes (including computer tapes), and computer printouts. Record does not include drafts, notes, preliminary computations and like materials prepared for the originator's personal use or prepared by the originator in the name of a person for whom the originator is working; materials which are purely the personal property of the custodian and have no relation to his office; materials to which access is limited by copyright, patent or bequest; and published materials in the possession of an authority other than a public library which are available for sale, or which are available for inspection at a public library.

(Code 1984, § 1.08(1))

Cross references: Definitions generally, § 1-2.

State law references: Similar provisions, Wis. Stats. § 19.32.

Sec. 2-312.  Duty to maintain.

(a)          Except as provided under section 2-317, each officer and employee of the village shall safely keep and preserve all records received from his predecessor or other persons and required by law to be filed, deposited or kept in his office or which are in the lawful possession or control of the officer or employee or his deputies, or to the possession or control of which he or they may be lawfully entitled as such officers or employees.

(b)          Upon the expiration of an officer's term of office or an employee's term of employment, or whenever the office or position of employment becomes vacant, each such officer or employee shall deliver to his successor all records then in his custody and the successor shall give receipt therefor to the officer or employee who shall file such receipt with the village administrator. If a vacancy occurs before a successor is selected or qualifies, such records shall be delivered to and receipted for by the clerk, on behalf of the successor, to be delivered to such successor upon the latter's receipt.

(Code 1984, § 1.08(2))

Sec. 2-313.  Legal custodians.

(a)          Each elected or appointed official is the legal custodian of his records and the records of his office, but the official may designate an employee of his staff to act as the legal custodian.

(b)          Unless otherwise prohibited by law, the village administrator or his designee shall act as legal custodian for the village board and for any committees, commissions, boards or other authorities created by ordinance or resolution of the village board.

(c)           For every authority not specified in subsections (a) or (b) of this section, the authority's chief administrative officer is the legal custodian for the authority, but the officer may designate an employee of his staff to act as the legal custodian.

(d)          Each legal custodian shall name a person to act as legal custodian in his absence or the absence of his designee.

(e)          The legal custodian shall have full legal power to render decisions and to carry out the duties of an authority under Wis. Stats. § 19.31 et seq. and this section. The designation of a legal custodian does not affect the powers and duties of an authority under this section.

(Code 1984, § 1.08(3))

State law references: Legal custodians, Wis. Stats. § 19.33.

Sec. 2-314.  Public access.

(a)          Except as provided in section 2-316, any person has a right to inspect a record and to make or receive a copy of any record as provided in Wis. Stats. § 19.35(1).

(b)          Records will be available for inspection and copying during all regular office hours.

(c)           If regular office hours are not maintained at the location where records are kept, the records will be available for inspection and copying upon at least 48 hours' written or oral advance notice of intent to inspect or copy.

(d)          A requester shall be permitted to use facilities comparable to those available to village employees to inspect, copy or abstract a record.

(e)          The legal custodian may require supervision during inspection or may impose other reasonable restrictions on the manner of access to an original record if the record is irreplaceable or easily damaged.

(f)           A requester shall be charged a fee to defray the cost of locating and copying records as follows:

(1)          The cost of photocopying shall be a cost per page to be established by resolution of the village board, and on file in the village clerk's office. Such cost has been calculated not to exceed the actual, necessary and direct cost of reproduction.

(2)          If the form of a written record does not permit copying, the actual and necessary cost of photographing and photographic processing shall be charged.

(3)          The actual full cost of providing a copy of other records not in printed form on paper, such as films, computer printouts and audiotapes or videotapes, shall be charged.

(4)          If mailing or shipping is necessary, the actual cost shall also be charged.

(5)          There shall be no charge for locating a record unless the actual cost therefor exceeds $50.00, in which case the actual cost shall be determined by the legal custodian and billed to the requester.

(6)          The legal custodian shall estimate the cost of all applicable fees and may require a cash deposit adequate to ensure payment, if such estimate exceeds $5.00.

(7)          Elected and appointed officials of the village shall not be required to pay for public records they may reasonably require for the proper performance of their official duties.

(8)          The legal custodian may provide copies of a record without charge or at a reduced charge where he determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest.

(9)          The village treasurer is authorized and directed to charge an amount to be established by resolution of the village board and on file in the village clerk's office for each duplicate real estate tax bill that is requested by anyone other than the owner of the property in question. No copies of any nature shall be mailed to any applicant unless prior arrangements be made with the treasurer for the payment of postage.

(10)        The village treasurer is authorized and directed to prepare a statement of real property status form which shall include such information as is normally sought by interested parties when ownership of real property is transferred. The form may include, but is not necessarily limited to, the amount of outstanding special assessments, deferred assessments, changes in assessments, outstanding water bills, latest water bill, contemplated improvements, floodplain status and violations of the building and health codes. The village treasurer is authorized and directed to charge an amount to be established by resolution of the village board and on file in the village clerk's office, for each statement of real property status form requested. No copies of any nature shall be mailed to any applicant unless prior arrangements are made with the treasurer for the payment of postage.

(g)          Pursuant to Wis. Stats. § 19.34 and the guidelines therein listed, each authority shall adopt, prominently display and make available for inspection and copying at its offices, for the guidance of the public, a notice containing a description of its organization and the established times and places at which, the legal custodian from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information and access to records in its custody, make requests for records, or obtain copies of records, and the costs thereof. This subsection does not apply to members of the village board. Each authority shall prominently display at its offices for the guidance of the public a copy of Wis. Stats. §§ 19.31--19.39.

(Code 1984, § 1.08(4))

State law references: Procedural requirements, Wis. Stats. § 19.34; access to records, Wis. Stats. § 19.35.

Sec. 2-315.  Access procedures.

(a)          A request to inspect or copy a record shall be made to the legal custodian. A request shall be deemed sufficient if it reasonably describes the requested record or the information requested. However, a request for a record without a reasonable limitation as to subject matter or length of time represented by the record does not constitute a sufficient request. A request may be made orally, but a request must be in writing before an action to enforce the request is commenced under Wis. Stats. § 19.37. Except as provided in this section, no request may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling to be identified or to state the purpose of the request. No request may be refused because the request is received by mail, unless prepayment of a fee is required under section 2-314(f)(6). A requester may be required to show acceptable identification whenever the requested record is kept at a private residence or whenever security reasons or federal law or regulations so require.

(b)          Each custodian, upon request for any record, shall, as soon as practicable and without delay, either fill the request or notify the requester of the authority's determination to deny the request in whole or in part and the reasons therefor. If the legal custodian, after conferring with the village attorney, determines that a written request is so general as to be unduly time consuming, the party making the request may first be required to itemize his request in a manner which would permit reasonable compliance.

(c)           A request for a record may be denied as provided in section 2-316. If a request is made orally, the request may be denied orally unless a demand for a written statement of the reasons denying the request is made by the requester within five business days of the oral denial. If a written request is denied in whole or in part, the requester shall receive a written statement of the reasons for denying the request. Every written denial of a request shall inform the requester that if the request for the record was made in writing, then the determination is subject to review upon petition for a writ of mandamus under Wis. Stats. § 19.37(1), or upon application to the attorney general or a district attorney.

(Code 1984, § 1.08(5))

State law references: Access to records, fees, Wis. Stats. § 19.35; enforcement and penalties, Wis. Stats. § 19.37.

Sec. 2-316.  Limitations on right to access.

(a)          The records which are exempt from inspection under this section are those provided in Wis. Stats. § 19.36.

(b)          If a record contains information that may be made public and information that may not be made public, the custodian of the record shall provide the information that may be made public and delete the information that may not be made public from the record before release. The custodian shall confer with the village attorney prior to releasing any such record and shall follow the guidance of the village attorney when separating out the exempt material. If, in the judgment of the custodian and the village attorney, there is no feasible way to separate the exempt material from the nonexempt material without unreasonably jeopardizing nondisclosure of the exempt material, the entire record shall be withheld from disclosure.

(Code 1984, § 1.08(6)(a), (b), (d))

State law references: Limitation on access, Wis. Stats. § 19.36; library records, Wis. Stats. § 43.30; lawyer-client privilege, Wis. Stats. § 905.03; limitations on access, withholding certain records, Wis. Stats. § 19.36(6).