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As I See It

Quicker action needed on public records requests



It shouldn’t have taken so long. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, by a narrow margin, ruled last week that a lobbying group cannot sue to stop to release of public records about COVID outbreaks at large businesses. The state’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), sued to try to prevent the release of records showing how widespread the Coronavirus was. Instead, the court ruled that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other media outlets are entitled to records compiled by the state Department of Health Services. The media groups were seeking information two years ago, during the height of the pandemic, to discover how many employees at Wisconsin businesses had tested positive for the virus. The requests were filed after meatpacking workers and those working in nursing homes say they were left in the dark about the severity of the outbreak at their place of work, leaving them and their families at risk. The state Supreme Court ruled that the decision of whether to permit public access to a record in response to a request lies with the custodian of the record, not its subjects. Still, WMC was able to delay the release of these records while trying to argue it might be harmed by the release of the information. It should not take two years for such records to be released. Getting the information now doesn’t really help determine the danger of workers. Nobody should have to wait that long for public records to be released.

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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