A recent state appeals court ruling could make it easier for local government agencies to refuse to
grant open records requests, though advocates for preventing domestic violence say the court
decision was made in the interest of protecting a Milwaukee Public Schools employee.
The ruling upheld a decision by the Milwaukee Board of School Directors to deny Korry Ardell access
to the sick leave records of his ex-girlfriend. Ardell says he wanted to prove she was filing for leave
when she wasn't sick. He had previously been accused of abusing her, and a restraining order she
filed against him had just expired when he requested the records.
Tony Gibart of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says the ruling properly take into account the way
Ardell planned to use the records.
“To consider the safety of its employee, the school board obviously had to consider who the person
was, because this person had this history of stalking and harassing its employee,” said Gibart.
Bill Lueders, chair of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, says a ruling like this sets a
precedent that could unfairly block public records access to journalists or to average citizens who do
not intend to use them to harass or stalk someone. Lueders says records custodians aren't supposed to
consider who wants the records or why when responding to a request.
“Our experience is that any time you create through statue or court rulings some exception to the
rule that public records are public, authorities will seize on that to deny requests that they'd rather
not to fulfill,” said Lueders.
Lueders says the ruling may not prevent people like Ardell from getting the information he or she
wants because they can always ask someone else to make the request for them.