61 Op. Att'y Gen. 297 (1972)

 
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29 June 1972

WI Attorney General Opinion

Public Records    VTAE District Schools

Public records subject to inspection and
copying by any person would include list
of students awaiting particular program
in a Vocational, Technical and Adult
Education District School.

EUGENE I. LEHRMANN, State Director,
Board of Vocational, Technical
and Adult Education

You request my opinion whether a Vocational,
Technical and Adult Education District School
is authorized by state law to provide a
private organization with a list of
students who are on a waiting
list for a particular program.

Your question assumes that such
a list is kept by the school.

I am of the opinion that the statutes
permit such a list to be furnished
to such private organization.

Such a list would constitute a public record
within the meaning of Section 19.21(1),
Stats., and subject to inspection and
copying under Section 19.21(2), Stats.

I am enclosing a copy of an opinion to the
Secretary of the Department of Transportation
dated December 31, 1971, which discusses
Sections 19.21 and 66.77, Stats., as
interpreted by the Supreme Court in

State ex rel. Youmans v. Owens (1965),
28 Wis.2d 672,
137 N.W.2d 470,

and sets forth grounds which in special
circumstances might be a sufficient basis
for initial denial of inspection.

Note that the opinion states that the
custodian is not required by Section 19.21,
Stats., to make a search or compile
a list or report.

52 OAG 8 (1963)

If a list is available and demand for
inspection is made at reasonable time and
place, the custodian can only withhold
inspection if he determines that the public
interest in withholding inspection exceeds
the public interest, expressed by statute,
in permitting inspection by any person.

Specific reasons must be given when
inspection is withheld and the person seeking
the same can then resort to court action to
test the sufficiency of such reasons.

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In my opinion, the fact that a private
organization which operated a school or
service giving a somewhat related course
intended to use the list to solicit students
would not be a sufficient reason to deny
inspection or copying.

In 58 OAG 67, 71 (1969), which involved
access to birth records for commercial
purposes, it was stated:

     The right to inspect and copy
     public records is in general
     extended to those who are engaged
     in the business of searching public
     records and furnishing to customers
     the information which is to be
     gained therefrom.

     45 Am. Jur., Records and Recording Laws,
     Section 19.

     However, the custodian may enforce
     such reasonable supervision and
     control of the records and those
     examining them as is necessary to
     the carrying out of the duties of
     his office and allowing other
     members of the public access to
     such records. . . . . . . . . .

Accordingly, in answer to your first question
I must conclude that subject to specific
statutory restrictions to the contrary,
specifically stated sufficient reasons
of denial by the custodian, and subject
to the reasonable rules and regulations
of the custodian, any person may examine
and copy birth records, and his reasons
for doing so are immaterial.

RWW:RJV

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