Wisconsin FOIA Laws

Wisconsin Open Meetings Law

The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Statutes 19.81-19.98 of the Wisconsin statutes define the law. Every meeting of a governmental body must be held in open session. All discussion, action, and deliberations can only occur in open sessions, with few exceptions. The law states that a meeting is any gathering of the members of a public body with the intention of conducting public business. The act determines that any gathering of at least half of the members of the public body is a clear indication of an intention to conduct public business. If violated, the court may assess fines of up to $300. The attorney general or the district attorney of any county where the violation occurs are the enforcers of this law.

Open Meetings Law Wisconsin Statute 19.81 et seq.

Closed: Certain negative or disciplinary personnel matters; personnel employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluations; strategy for crime detection and prevention; to deliberate or negotiate the purchase of public properties; to consider financial, medical, social or personal histories or disciplinary data of specific persons that would likely have a substantial adverse affect upon the reputation of the person; and attorney consultations.

Wisconsin Open Records Law

The Wisconsin Open Records Law, first enacted in 1982, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels. Wisconsin defines record as any document, regardless of physical form, that “has been created or is being kept by” an agency.

In general, “any requester has a right to inspect any record.” (Wis. Stat. 19.35(1)(a)). However, people who are incarcerated and people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution are restricted in their rights of access to public documents. A statement of purpose is not required and the statute for how records can be used states, “A requester shall comply with any regulations or restrictions upon … use of information which are specifically prescribed by law.” The Wisconsin Open Records Law does not specify a time requirement for responses to records requests.

Open Records Law Wisconsin Statute 19.21 et seq.

Exempt: Certain investigative records, computer programs and trade secrets; public library circulation records are confidential.

Visit, Wisconsin Sample FOIA Request, to view a sample FOIA request for the state.