"Wisconsin does not and should not have secret courts, especially when it comes to the litigation of open records issues," Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said in a call-to-action email to dozens of other news outlets urging further coverage.
"The public has a right to know when public officials seek to quash our right to know."
Ald. Sandra Weidner told the newspaper she was in the midst of running for mayor last summer when City Attorney Scott Letteney called a closed-session meeting of the Executive Committee and urged all council members to attend. She said he gave a PowerPoint presentation of roughly 30 emails, most of which were hers, characterizing them as improper sharing of confidential information with the public
The committee then recommended, and the Common Council approved, asking the city's Ethics Boards for an advisory opinion on whether the emailing activities violated Racine's ethics ordinance.
Weidner said she and her attorney sought copies of the presentation's slides but were denied by Letteney, who said he could not disclose things presented or discussed in a closed session. So Weidner filed a petition for a court order under Wisconsin's open records law.
But at the first hearing on the case, in January, Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz, after meeting with lawyers in his chambers, told others there for the hearing that they had to leave because he was sealing the case. It can't be found on CCAP, the state's online court records index, and if you search by the case number, the result says only that the case is sealed.