Open Government violations draw few penalties

CREATED Mar 15, 2014

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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) -- Public officials in Wisconsin can be fined hundreds of dollars for violating Wisconsin's open government laws. But court records show only seven citations have been imposed in the past five years for open meetings violations, and none for public records cases.

Prosecutors say that's because officials largely comply with the law. But Gannett Wisconsin Media report that some residents say another factor is in play -- their complaints fall on deaf ears.

Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, says he's surprised the number of citations was as high as seven. He says prosecutors are traditionally reluctant to enforce the state's openness laws.

Some Wisconsin citizens have spent thousands of dollars pursuing civil litigation in an attempt to force their government to comply with state law.