Public Access to Records

Public Access to Records

Except as provided in sub. (6), any person has a right to inspect a record and to make or receive a copy of any record as provided in sec. 19.35 (1), Statutes.

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

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 advance notice of intent to inspect or copy.

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

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.

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

The cost of photocopying shall be $.25 per page. Said cost has been calculated not to exceed the actual, necessary and direct cost of reproduction.

  • If the form of a written record does not permit copying, the actual and necessary cost of photographing and photographic processing shall be charged.
  • The actual full cost of providing a copy of other records not in printed form on paper, such as films, computer printouts and audio- or video-tapes, shall be charged.
  • If mailing or shipping is necessary, the actual cost thereof shall also be charged.
  • There shall be no charge for locating a record unless the actual cost therefore exceed $50.00, in which case the actual cost shall be determined by the legal custodian and billed to the requester. The cost shall be determined by multiplying the hourly wage (including fringe benefits) of the employee searching for the record by the amount of time spent in the search.
  • The legal custodian shall estimate the cost of all applicable fees and may require a cash deposit adequate to assure payment, if such estimate exceed $5.00.

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

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

Pursuant to sec. 19.34, Stats., 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. Each authority shall also prominently display at its offices, for the guidance of the public, a copy of subs. (4) through (6) this ordinance. This subsection does not apply to members of the Common Council.

Access Procedures

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 sec. 19.37, Stats. Except as provided below, 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 sub. (4) (0 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.

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 therefore. If the legal custodian after conferring with the City Attorney, determines that a written request is so general as to be unduly time consuming, the party making the request in a manner which would permit the reasonable compliance.

A request for a record may be denied as provided in sub. (6). 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 sec. 19.37 (1) Stats., or upon application to the Attorney general or a District Attorney.

Limitations on Right to Access

As provided by sec. 19.36, Stats., the following records are exempt from inspection under this section:

  • Records specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal law or authorized to be exempted from disclosure by state law;
  • Any record relating to investigative information obtained for law enforcement purposes if federal law or regulations require exemption from disclosure or if exemption from disclosure is a condition to receipt of aides by the state;
  • Computer programs, although the material used as input for a computer program or the material produced as a product of the computer program is subject to inspection; and
  • A record or any portion of a record containing information qualifying as a common law trade secret.

In responding to a request for inspection or copying of a record which is not specifically exempt from disclosure, the legal custodian, after conferring with the City Attorney, may deny the request, in whole or in part, only if he or she determines that the harm to the public interest resulting from disclosure would outweigh the public interest in full access to the requested record. Examples of matters for which disclosure may be refused include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Record obtained under official pledges of confidentiality which were necessary and given in order to obtain the information contained in them.
  • Records of current deliberations after a quasi-judicial hearing.
  • Records of current deliberations concerning employment, dismissal, promotion, demotion, compensation, performance, or discipline of any city officer or employee, or the investigation of charges against a city office or employee, unless such officer or employee consents to such disclosure.
  • Records concerning current strategy for crime detection or prevention.
  • Records of current deliberations or negotiations on the purchase of City property, investing of City funds, or other City business whenever competitive or bargaining reasons require nondisclosure.
  • Financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons which, if disclosed, would be likely to have a substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of any person referred to in such history or data.
  • Communications between legal counsel for the City and any officer, agent or employee of the City, when advice is being rendered concerning strategy with respect to current litigation in which the City or any of its officers, agents or employees is or is likely to become involved, or communications which are privileged under sec. 905.03, Stats.

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 City Attorney prior to releasing any such records and shall follow the guidance of the City Attorney when separating out the exempt material. If in the judgment of the custodian and the City 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.

Reconfirmed: 12/12/2013

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