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Few Wisconsin open-government complaints investigated

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J.B. Van Hollen

GREEN BAY (AP) — The power to enforce the state’s open-government laws rests with the state attorney general and local district attorneys, but a review shows that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has never pursued such a case in his seven years in office.

A Press-Gazette Media report says he and his staffers defer legal action to local prosecutors. However, those local offices tend to be understaffed and less experienced with open-records laws.

That means there’s little action on the hundreds of complaints from residents alleging violations of open meetings and public-record requests.

Van Hollen’s office says it might choose to prosecute cases that are of statewide interest. Otherwise it lets county prosecutors handle the cases.

But district attorneys generally place a lower priority on such cases because they’re not criminal matters.