State Sen. Jon Erpenbach came to talk to our editorial board Monday, clearly unhappy with our criticism of him for a state Appeals Court ruling that he had violated the state’s open records law. He didn’t change our opinion. But he made some important and, frankly, troubling points that bear some further discussion.
Erpenbach disagrees with the ruling and genuinely feels his office’s policy of redacting the names of every citizen who contacts the office is consistent with the balancing test included in the state law. That issue may not be finally resolved without further appeals or legislative action. But Erpenbach’s greater point is the depths to which politics has sunk that make his protection of his constituents’ privacy so important to him. He sees lists being compiled for reasons of political payback. He is really worried about that and we respect that. We’re just not sure the danger rises to the level of interpreting the open records law to allow withholding information about citizens contacting their elected officials. But it is a reality of politics today and it is a danger that has to be addressed. And we’d like to work with the Senator on addressing it.