The City of Oconto would like to address and respond to recent articles that were printed in the Oconto County Reporter regarding the denial of an open records request made by Kent Tempus, editor of the Reporter. The request asked that the City disclose the names, cities of residence and the current positions of those interviewed for the Police Chief position. The City was advised to deny that request. The Oconto County Reporter responded by publishing an article which states that Oconto officials violated the public’s trust, and that “Wisconsin law is very clear: The names of finalists for public office must be released.” The City disagrees.
An opinion written by the State of Wisconsin Attorney General on Wis. Stat. § 19.36 states the following:
“That definition (of “final candidate”) itself is in turn limited; it does not apply to all local public offices. For example, it would not apply to an officer appointed to serve an indefinite term who was also removable for cause, or an officer appointed by a body other than the governing body or the executive or administrative head of the local government. The statute does not apply, for example, to the office of chief of police because chiefs are appointed by the police and fire commission and hold their offices during good behavior, subject to suspension or removal by the board for cause. Sec. 62.13(3), Stats (emphasis added)”
81 Atty. Gen. 37 (1993).
The City believes that, based on the above-referenced opinion, it was likely correct to deny the open records request.
The Oconto County Reporter filed a lawsuit against the City seeking the attorneys’ fees it incurred as a result of the request. The City, upon the advice of counsel, has agreed to a negotiated settlement to avoid further costs to its taxpayers as a result of the litigation. This settlement will be paid for by the City’s insurance carrier as part of the City’s insurance policy.