Wisconsin newspaper receives records in lawsuit settlement with village board

Journal Times (Racine, WI) received grant from Knight FOI Fund to pursue meetings records and correspondence.

From editor Steve Lovejoy of the Journal Times:

The abrupt firing of the Mount Pleasant (WI) village administrator last spring raised many questions in the community over the reasons for the village board's actions and whether the board had been diligent in its oversight of that position and the operations of village hall.

We believed at the time that Village President Carolyn Milkie and the board owed the public an explanation of their decision so that the public could judge whether they had acted properly and also to reassure village residents that they were doing their jobs in a responsible manner. Regrettably, Milkie and the board declined to explain the firing and refused to release the complaint from former village clerk/treasurer Juliet Edmands that ignited the situation.

That flies in the face of Wisconsin law which dictates that government should operate as much as possible in the open.

The Journal Times filed suit and this week prevailed in its efforts to provide Mount Pleasant residents with the information on what happened so that they can assess the actions of their elected officials and judge whether they acted appropriately.

Story timeline:

  • June 15: The Journal Times files a lawsuit against the village and Milkie as its president for allegedly violating the open records law by withholding the requested correspondence and failing to provide proper reasons for the denial. The Journal Times later received a $500 grant from the National Freedom of Information Coalition in support of the investigation.
  • Aug. 3: The Journal Times amends its suit to include a request for police records regarding allegations against Andreasen.
  • Aug. 17: Requested documents are released with alleged victim information blacked out as per a settlement reached with the village and its insurance company agrees to pay $5,000 for The Journal Times' suit costs, according to attorneys.

For more of the story, see:
A note to readers (from Journal Times editor Steve Lovejoy)
Reports: Trustees ignored Village Hall complaints
Secret records allege abuse at Mount Pleasant Village Hall
Mount Pleasant residents tell Village Board they want to see more open government