SPJ Madison to host panel discussion about open records

The Society of Professional Journalists Madison Pro chapter will host a discussion with open records experts on how to navigate the open records process from who to talk to, what to ask for and what to expect. The event will provide insight into how all people — journalists and community members — can use government records.

Getting straight answers from public officials can be challenging. Government employees aren’t obligated to answer your questions, but Wisconsin open records law and the federal Freedom of Information Act require officials to provide most records any person asks for, from emails to audits to investigation reports and more. 

What: SPJ Madison Right to Know open records panel
When: Tuesday, March 10, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Where: Central Madison Public Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., Room 302
RSVP on Facebook 

For more information about the event, email board president Shelley K. Mesch at spjmadisononline@gmail.com

Special thanks to the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism for assistance in putting together this event.

About the panelists: 

Paul M. Ferguson is an assistant attorney general who leads the Office of Open Government at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Ferguson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Seton Hall University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School. Ferguson serves as vice-chair of the Wisconsin Public Records Board and as chair of the PRB’s Records Management Committee.

Christa Westerberg is a partner with the Madison law firm Pines Bach LLP. Her practice includes open records and First Amendment work on behalf of individuals, organizations and media. Her work has resulted in numerous published appellate decisions protecting the public’s right to know, including Lueders v. Krug, 2019 WI App 36; Hagen v. Board of Regents, 2018 WI App 43; Juneau County Star-Times v. Juneau County, 2013 WI 4; and State ex rel. Citizens for Open Government v. City of Milton, 2007 WI App 114. Westerberg writes and presents frequently on open government issues and is co-Vice President of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Dee J. Hall, a co-founder of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, joined the staff as managing editor of Wisconsin Watch in June 2015. She is responsible for daily news operations. She worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 24 years as an editor and reporter focusing on projects and investigations. During her 35-year journalism career, Hall has won more than three dozen local, state and national awards for her work, including the 2001 State Journal investigation that uncovered a $4 million-a-year secret campaign machine operated by Wisconsin’s top legislative leaders. Hall also is secretary of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

Tom Kamenick is the President and Founder of the Wisconsin Transparency Project, a law firm dedicated to strict enforcement of the state’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws. Prior to founding WTP, he was Deputy Counsel and Litigation Manager at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a non-profit law firm and think tank dedicated to the rule of law, individual liberty, constitutional government and a robust civil society. Kamenick holds a J.D., magna cum laude, from Marquette Law School and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Education, high honors, from UW-Milwaukee.

Molly Beck has been covering government at every level for 15 years, currently as a state government reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. During her career, she’s been recognized for her work to keep government business in public view including stories that uncovered the Wisconsin state Legislature’s attempt to keep lawmakers’ records private; a previously undisclosed payout by the Legislature to a woman who accused a state senator of sexual harassment; and a secret school board vote to pay its superintendent to resign. Beck has previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison; the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois; and the Owatonna People’s Press in southern Minnesota.