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home : opinions : opinions July 24, 2014


WITC

10/16/2013 12:15:00 PM
Blackout continues

The withholding of information from public Driver Motor Vehicle records released for many years to the public continues in 78 municipalities around the state, including Rice Lake and Barron County, since June.
That action was in response to a decision by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Wisconsin. Three years ago, a Palatine, Ill., police officer put a ticket on the windshield of a car. The owner sued the village saying that the public listing of his name, address, driver's license number and other information violated his rights under the 1994 Driver's Privacy Protection Act.
The lawsuit was dismissed, but then a year later the Court of Appeals held that the DPPA doesn't provide unlimited authority for law enforcement to access or disseminate personal information from DMV records. The City of Palentine faces up to $80 million in fines. Here in Wisconsin, the New Richmond News has filed suit against the City of New Richmond for withholding information.
The ongoing redaction of such information slams the door shut on taxpayers who have a right to know in a timely manner who's being arrested, where burglaries are taking place and something as simple as the details of the fender bender up the street.
The Wisconsin Newspaper Association continues to work to regain access to this information. A formal request for Wisconsin state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to issue an opinion on the matter has been declined. Van Hollen previously wrote that the DPPA does not require removal of personal information from law enforcement records in response to public records requests.
Wisconsin's open government laws promote democracy by ensuring that all state, regional and local governments conduct their business with transparency. Sadly, the pages of heavily blackened out public records pages we've encountered of late say just the opposite.
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