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Three Lakes residents

have right to town records

The town of Three Lakes is requesting that former town chairman Don Sidlowski provide them with electronic copies of all correspondence he received during his four years in office, as well as copies of any emails he prepared originally or as responses.

 

Sidlowski has provided some of that information to Town Clerk Sue Harris, the official keeper of town records, but he failed to provide electronic copies and instead delivered a box of printed copies despite the demands of the town’s attorney.

 

Town officials report that the former town chairman indicated more printed copies of emails will be coming. They said Sidlowski has not agreed to transmit the public email records electronically — something Harris said she needs in order to comply efficiently with any public records requests the town receives.

 

Harris claims the former chairman has hundreds if not thousands of such electronic email files in his possession. We agree with the town clerk that she must have access to any emails received or sent by Sidlowski on the three separate email accounts operated by town government. These are public records that every Three Lakes resident should have access to.

 

The significance of electronic files over paper files is simple. It’s common sense that the public record being preserved should be received by the town in the same manner it was received or sent by Sidlowski — electronically. Besides, future record searches would place an undue burden on Harris if she can’t make use of the modern search techniques offered by today’s technology.

 

Because Sidlowski could more easily transmit electronic files to the town instead of taking the time and expense to print out those files, his response so far sparks questions. Why the lengthier process? Why the indifference to the clerk’s request?

 

It’s time for the former chairman to start complying with the request for electronic files of those email responses, lest his four years in office be clouded by a controversy over open records.

DNR wants to sidestep

public notice requirement

While were on the issue of open government, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is once again proposing to sidestep newspaper public notice requirements when announcing the sale of state-owned timber.

 

The DNR’s proposed budget includes a proposal to allow the agency to post such timber sales on its website, eliminating the current process of providing newspaper notice in the county where the timber is being sold.

 

We oppose the plan because it reverses a basic government responsibility. It is the government that serves the public, and it is the responsibility of government to ensure proper notification on its actions — not the other way around.

 

Allowing the DNR to simply post public notices on a website removes the third-party oversight that is provided by the newspaper. It removes any independent proof of publication.

 

Behind the editorial ‘we’

 

Members of the Vilas County News-Review editorial board include Publisher Kurt Krueger, Editor Gary Ridderbusch and Assistant Editor Anthony Drew.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013 4:16 PM
 

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