The posted notice is a requirement that is often overlooked under Wisconsin’s Public Records law. Wis. Stat. § 19.34(1). By statute, each public records authority, excluding members of a governmental body, must adopt, prominently display, and make available, a notice providing guidance on its public records procedures. Many school districts display the notice in their offices and post it on their website. However, it can be easy to overlook the notice requirement or forget to update it, as needed.
The Public Records Notice must include all of the following information:
- A description of the organization;
- The times and places in which the public may obtain information and access to records from the organization;
- The times and places in which the public may request and obtain copies of records from the organization;
- The costs for obtaining records;
- The identity of the legal custodian(s);
- If the organization does not have regular office hours, any advance notice requirement to inspect or copy records; and
- The identity of each position constituting a “local public office” or a “state public office”.
Most of the required information is easily identified and included within the notice. However, many school districts fail to identify or under-identify the positions that constitute a “local public office”.
Wisconsin’s Public Records law defines “local public office” as including all of the following:
- Elected officials of the governmental unit;
- Appointive offices or positions of a local governmental unit, in which an individual serves for a specified term;
- Appointive offices or positions, in which an individual serves as the head of a department, agency, or division of the local governmental unit;
- Employees of a school district who hold a school administrator’s license or permit issued by the Department of Public Instruction;
- Employees of a school district who act as the head of facilities and maintenance and whose employment duties include making purchasing decisions or recommendations for the school district.
Wis. Stat. § 19.32(1dm).
Thus, school districts should include Board members, each licensed administrator, the Director of buildings and grounds (or a similarly titled position), and any Department head, such as an Athletic Director, Dean of Students, or Human Resources Director, who may not hold an administrator’s license.
Local public office holders are entitled to prior notice that the school district is releasing public records pertaining to them and that they may augment the records before release. Wis. Stat. § 19.356(9). Thus, maintaining an accurate and up-to-date list of local public offices can avoid disputes over who is entitled to receive such notice and augment the records before release. School districts are well advised to review their public record notice to ensure it contains all required information, including an accurate list of local public offices. School districts should also periodically review the list of local public officials to ensure it reflects changes in the school district’s organizational structure.
For questions regarding this article, please contact the author,
or your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.