State Supreme Court delivers open government victory

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled unanimously in support of open government advocates in a case involving a school district that held closed-door meetings.

The June 29 ruling said the Appleton Area School District violated open meetings law when it allowed a committee to review curriculum in a closed setting. The court ruled that the committee counts as a governmental body and should be subject to open meetings law.

Justice Michael Gableman wrote the decision. He dismissed the district’s concerns that subjecting such groups to the open meetings law “would be detrimental to the functioning of government.”

“We are not at liberty to exempt (the group) from the definition of ‘governmental body’ simply because government officials would find it convenient,” Gableman wrote.

In 2013, Appleton parent John Krueger sued the Appleton Area School District saying it had violated the open meetings law. A circuit court judge ruled against him in 2014. He appealed, but the Court of Appeals again ruled in the district’s favor in 2016.

Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, called the ruling “an important win for open government in Wisconsin.”

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association supported the lawsuit against the school district.