What is a "record"?
A record is any material on which written, drawn, printed, spoken, visual or electromagnetic information is recorded or preserved, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which has been created or is being kept by an authority in connection with official purpose or function of the agency. A record includes handwritten, typed or printed documents; maps and charts; photographs, films and tape recordings; computer tapes and printouts, CDs and optical discs; and electronic records and communications.
What is not subject to Wisconsin's Open Records Law?
There are numerous federal and state laws that exempt particular records from disclosure.
Common exemptions include:
Drafts, notes, preliminary documents and similar materials.
Published material available for sale or at the library.
Purely personal property with no relation to the office.
Material with access limited due to copyright, patent or bequest.
Social security numbers.
Plans or specifications for state buildings.
Information obtained for law enforcement purposes, when required by federal law or regulation as a condition to receipt of state aids.
Computer programs (but the material input and the material produced as the product of a computer program is subject to the right of inspection and copying).
Certain employee information.
Identities of certain applicants for public positions.
Identifies of law enforcement informants.
Who can make an open records request?
Generally, any person may make an open records request. Wisconsin statutes limit access when the requestor is incarcerated or mentally committed to records that contain specific references to the requestor or his or her minor children. See WI Department of Justice Compliance Outline.
Do I have to identify myself when making the request?
No. Generally the requestor need not identify himself or herself; however, substantive statutes, such as those concerning student records and health records, restrict record access to certain persons. See Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(i).
Am I required to state the reason for my request?
No. A requester is not required to state the purpose of the request.
Can I inspect records?
Yes. Upon request, DMA will make the requested records available to you to inspect.
Can I request copies of records?
Yes. The Department will provide copies of open records at the cost of 0.25/page. Where the request involves copying of a large volume of records, you may request copies be made by a bonded copying service in which case, if approved by the Department, the requestor would pay the rate charged by the service.
How long until I receive the requested records?
By law, open records must be provided "as soon as practicable and without delay." Wis. Stat. §19.35(4)(a) . A reasonable time for response to any specific request depends on the nature of the request, the staff and other resources available to the authority to process the request, the extent of the request, and related considerations. Although the public records law does not require response within any specific time, average record requests are generally available within ten working days. See WI Department of Justice Compliance Outline.
Can I get electronic records?
Electronic records are subject to the open records law. Computer programs are not subject to the open records law, but records produced as the product of a computer program are subject to inspection and copying. A person can not require the Department to create a new record by extracting and compiling information from existing records in a new format. When information is stored in a database, a person can "within reasonable limits" request a data run to obtain the requested information. See DOJ Compliance Outline.
What is the cost of requesting records?
DMA may charge the actual, necessary, and direct cost of reproducing or transcribing a record. When the request calls for a copy of a record, and the record can be photocopied, DMA may charge its standard fee of $.25 for each impression produced in response to the request. If the record requested is not in readily comprehensible form (e.g. computer file, database entry), DMA may charge the actual cost of creating a readily comprehensible copy.
If the cost of locating a record or removing confidential information is greater than $50, DMA may charge the requester the actual, necessary and direct location or redaction cost. If the records are mailed to the requester, DMA may charge the actual, necessary and direct shipping cost.
Regardless of who processes the request, fees will be calculated based on the hourly wage of the lowest paid staff member capable of performing the work. The above fees apply except where a different fee is authorized by law. DMA may request pre-payment if the total costs are greater than $5. Make checks payable to Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs.