Brad Schimel

Attorney General Brad Schimel is convening a summit on Wednesday to discuss potential areas of the state's open records law that could be changed. The last time the records law was changed was 1981. 

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Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is launching an Office of Open Government in an effort to increase openness and transparency with regard to government records.

The new office will be charged with interpreting and applying the state's open meetings and public records laws and other rules related to open government, developing open government policies, serving as custodian of Department of Justice records and providing timely responses to records requests and offering legal counsel to DOJ leaders and clients.

DOJ spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said an overwhelming concern in reviewing the agency's approach was that policies haven't kept pace with technology. 

Schimel said when he took office in January, there were between five and six dozen records requests waiting to be filled. 

DOJ investigations into police-involved shootings have presented a new challenge for the agency, Schimel said, adding that there's a delicate balance to be struck in releasing records.

He said he understands the need to ensure police safety, but also that "if there isn't something you must redact, you shouldn't."

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No additional positions will be hired, Schimel said, adding that he will reassign an attorney from his office to head up the open government work.

Paul M. Ferguson, who currently works on appellate issues for the DOJ, will lead the new office. 

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.