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As I See It

Text messages are public records



The battle continues over just what constitutes a public record in Wisconsin. For years, nearly every government document was on paper, and it was clear that in nearly all instances, those pieces of paper were a matter of public record. Now in the electronic age, the state still hasn’t exactly settled on whether things like text messages to and from government officials are a matter of record. And that is leading to continued abuse of the law. Various media have sought text messages dealing with a half million dollar state loan from a big donor to Governor Walker. The deal ultimately went sour, and we have since learned the head of the company lied on his application for a state loan, which was approved anyway. There were text messages sent linked to the loan, but the Walker administration refuses to release them, armed with a recent ruling by the state’s Public Record Board that such text messages are considered transitory, and therefore can be destroyed. But when we’re talking about handing out state money, it would seem the public should have every right to see record of how the state dealt with that loan, even if the communication was in the form of a text. The Public Records Board will meet next week to reconsider whether text messages should have to be kept. Let’s hope this time they get it right.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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