Wisconsin Open Records Law

MARA Blog

Published: February 19, 2016 by Anna Maloney

A few weeks ago, the MARA blog covered the Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer, and the influx of records requests that Manitowoc County, Wisconsin has seen since the series premiered in December 2015. Wisconsin open records laws are now being publicly examined after a state board expanded the definition of “transitory records” to include correspondence (electronic and analog), interim files, and recordings used for training purposes. Under state law, transitory records do not require review before disposition and have no retention schedule applied–meaning thousands of pages of correspondence could be destroyed or deleted without any appraisal by state records officers or archivists. When this change was made in August 2015, the meeting minutes and public summary made no mention of the new definition, effectively obfuscating the change and its implications. While the expanded definition was rescinded in January 2016 after public outcry, the decision still raises questions about the threat to and future of open records in Wisconsin.