Police dept. causes controversy in limiting arrest info
Policy connected to case in front of U.S. Court of Appeals
EDGERTON, Wis. — A Rock County community is already implementing a decision from a federal appeals court limiting the release of personal information.
Senne vs. the Village of Palastine was recently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The circuit court said the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act prohibited municipalities from disclosing personal information obtained from a motor vehicle record. The ruling could have an impact on Wisconsin Open Records laws. Wisconsin’s attorney general is waiting to issue guidelines for the federal ruling since the case could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But officials in Edgerton aren’t waiting.
The Edgerton Reporter’s been keeping the community informed since 1874.
“There’s no reason for the city to keep this information out of our hands,” said long-time News Reporter Mark Scarborough.
He said how the police department is interpreting a recent federal court ruling is making reporters’ jobs more difficult. Scarborough said the Edgerton Police Department is withholding information about people involved in crimes.
“They will not be willing to tell us last names, ages and addresses in people involved in these kinds of activities, which means we can no longer report the news,” Scarborough said.
News 3 asked Edgerton’s police Chief Tom Klubertanz to address specifics on the change in policy.
Klubertanz declined to go on camera but agreed to have his voice recorded.
“The city attorney has reviewed it and has advised us on what we should be doing in redacting and things of that nature,” Klubertanz said. “We’re currently in the process of changing our procedure here with rules and try to abide by the new law.”
Edgerton’s City Attorney Dale Pope was not available for comment.
City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said changes to the public record will impact their office.
“The guidelines we’ve been given by our city attorney [are] we have to restrict the information we release to the public from DMV records,” Flanigan said. For instance the city won’t be able to use DMV records to locate delinquent taxpayers.
“[The city attorney] said there really is a restriction on how you use those motor vehicle records, you have to use them for something related to motor vehicles,” Flanigan said. “He doesn’t think you can use them for other kinds of things.”
She said the city attorney’s guidelines aren’t meant to suppress information from the public. “It’s a balance, and in this case we now have a new set of rules that were handed to us and we, as we always do, try and provide as much information as we can.”
Attorney General JB Van Hollen hasn’t issued guidelines to cities on how to implement the federal court ruling stemming from the Illinois case.
According to a 2012 statement from the office of the state’s top cop, it said he’ll wait to issue guidelines as the federal ruling since this case could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I hope you can understand our reasons for waiting until after the case is fully resolved before addressing the issues in an attorney general’s opinion,” writes Kevin Potter, assistant attorney general.