63 Op. Att'y Gen. 549 (1974)
 
63 OAG 549  550  551

Wisconsin Attorney General Opinions

15 November 1974

Open Meeting;

Investment Board, Wisconsin; Posting in
Governor's office of agenda of future
Investment Board meetings is not sufficient
communication under Section 66.77(2)(e),
Stats., as created by Chapter 297, Laws of
1973, to the public or the news media who
have filed a written request for notice.

GEORGE H. AUSTIN, Executive Director, State
Investment Board

There is an inherent disposition elementary
to the legislation which creates the duty of
notices to public meetings.

This disposition reaches to a basic validity
of the public's "right to know" in a free
society.

You ask my opinion on the notice of
Investment Board meetings required by Section
66.77(2)(e), Stats., as created by Chapter
297, Laws of 1973.

You indicate that the Board's present
practice is to send to the Governor a copy of
the meeting agenda whereupon the Governor
posts such agenda on a bulletin board in his
office for the purpose of informing the
press.

Based upon this procedure you ask:

     Is the State of Wisconsin Investment
     Board giving the public notice by
     sending a copy of its agenda to the
     Governor who posts it for the
     press at a convenient place
     where the press can see it?

Section 66.77(2)(e), Stats., as created by
Chapter 297, Laws of 1973, provides:

     66.77(2)(e)

     "Public notice" means statutorily
     required notice, if any.

     If no notice is required by statute, it
     means a communication by the chief
     presiding officer of a governmental body
     or his designee, to the public and to
     the official municipal or city newspaper
     designated under Section 985.05 or
     985.06, or if none exists, then to
     members of the news media who have filed
     a written request for such notice, which
     communication is reasonably likely to
     apprise members of the public and of the
     news media of the time, place and
     subject matter of the meeting at a time,
     not less than one hour prior to the
     commencement of such meeting, which
     affords them a reasonable
     opportunity to attend.

 
63 OAG 549  550  551

You additionally inform me that there is no
specific statutorily required notice of
Investment Board meetings; consequently, the
general language quoted above applies.

"Public notice" as defined in
subsection(2)(e), as applicable to the
Investment Board, requires communication by
the chief presiding officer 1) to the public
and, 2) to members of the news media who have
filed a written request for such notice.

Such communication must be reasonably likely
to inform the public and news media of the
time, place and subject matter of the meeting

     at a time, not less than one hour
     prior to the commencement of such
     meeting, which affords them a
     reasonable opportunity to attend.

"Communication" can be verbal, or written
(posted notice or newspaper advertisement).

You as the "chief presiding officer" or your
"designee" must determine in each specific
instance what notice would be "reasonably
likely to apprise members of the public and
of the news media" of the meeting.

I call your attention in this regard to an
opinion my predecessor issued to Mr. Gerald
K. Anderson, District Attorney of Waupaca
County, on October 7, 1974, which opinion
defines the term "communication" and
discusses the methods of providing
such "communication" to the public.

It is my opinion that posting of the
Board's agenda in the Governor's office is
not "reasonably likely to apprise members of
the public . . . of the time, place and
subject matter of the meeting" in that
such office is not frequented by
the public on a day-to-day basis.

If posting is the method to be used, I
suggest that the agenda-notice be placed at
positions in the various state buildings more
generally frequented by the public.

I am of the further opinion that posting in
the Governor's office does not satisfy the
requirement of Section 66.77(2)(e), Stats.,
to communicate

     to members of the news media
     who have filed a written
     request for such notice.

 
63 OAG 549  550  551

The introductory paragraph of Section 66.77,
Stats., reads in part:

66.77     OPEN MEETINGS OF GOVERNMENTAL
          BODIES.

66.77(1)  In recognition of the fact that a
          representative government of the
          American type is dependent upon
          an informed electorate, it is
          declared to be the policy of this
          state that the public is entitled
          to the fullest and most complete
          information regarding the affairs
          of government as is compatible with
          the conduct of governmental affairs
          and the transaction of governmental
          business. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This lends support to my view that direct
affirmative action must be taken to give
notice to members of the news media who have
filed a written request for such notice.

Posting in Madison is not sufficient to
inform members of the news media who are
residents in other areas of the state.

Once a member of the news media has filed a
written request for notice, such notice must
be given, either verbally or by written
communication, to the requesting member.

The method of providing the written
communication to the requesting news media
member could be by mail or by furnishing
copies to the news media at prior
designated locations.

The guideline to be used in determining the
adequacy of the notice being in the words of
Section 66.77(2)(e), Stats.,

     which communication is reasonably
     likely to apprise members . . .
     of the news media . . which
     affords them a reasonable
     opportunity to attend.

You should make every effort to comply with
the spirit as well as the letter of the law
and err if at all by giving more sufficient
notice than required.

VAM:WMS

 
63 OAG 549  550  551