The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is declaring victory after their lawsuit with state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) over his failure to comply with an open records request by Collin Roth, a research fellow at WILL. Brostoff released the records in their original electronic format as requested and will pay the WILL’s court costs and attorney fees.
Brostoff’s office originally printed out the requested emails and attempted to charge WILL $3,239.76 in copying costs. The organization sued, saying Brostoff was attempting to avoid compliance with the open records request. Brostoff claimed that he was acting on the advice of Assembly Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller.
“I’ve complied with whatever Fuller told us to do,” Brostoff told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time. “We follow the letter of the law. This is just a bullying tactic because they’re mad at me (over licensing issues).”
However, on January 22, 2018, a Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled that state Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) needed to provide electronic files when requested in a similar case. When Brostoff was told of the case, he still refused to comply with the open records request.
“The records received from Rep. Brostoff reveal the extent to which lawmakers and special interests are willing to collaborate to maintain government barriers to entry,” explained Roth in a statement Thursday. “We remain undeterred in our efforts to better balance our state licensing laws to ensure more Wisconsinites can work, compete, and accomplish their dreams.”
The Krug case, however, remains unsettled. Krug has appealed the decision against him to the Court of Appeals. WILL is hoping that the case settles once and for all that elected officials need to provide the records in their original format when requested.
“In the Krug case, I hope the Court of Appeals adopts a common sense interpretation of the statute that serves the interest of open government and the efficient use of public resources,” said Tom Kamenick, Deputy Counsel and open government expert at WILL. “It defies common sense – and the law – for the legislature to waste taxpayer resources by printing out electronic records that could cheaply and quickly be provided via email, file sharing website, or CD.”