66 Op. Att'y Gen. 113 (1977)
 
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OPINION NO. OAG 32-77,

Wisconsin Attorney General Opinions

6 April 1977

Anti-Secrecy;
Cities;
Collective Bargaining;
Fire Department;
Municipal Corporations;
Municipalities;
Open Meeting;
Towns;
Villages;

Volunteer fire department organized as a
nonprofit corporation pursuant to Section
213.05, Stats., is not a governmental or
quasi-governmental corporation and is not
subject to provisions of the open meeting
law, secs. 19.81-19.98, Stats.

JACK MILL, Chief, Palmyra Volunteer Fire
Department

Pursuant to Section 19.98, Stats., you ask
whether the Palmyra Volunteer Fire Department
is subject to the provisions of the open
meeting law, secs. 19.81-19.98, Stats., as
created by Chapter 426, Laws of 1975.

You state:

     The Palmyra Volunteer Fire Department is
     incorporated under the laws of the State
     of Wisconsin and is a non-profit
     organization engaged in providing fire
     protection service to the Palmyra Fire
     Protection District, which consists of
     the Village of Palmyra and Town of
     Palmyra, Jefferson County, Wisconsin.

     The Department holds regular monthly
     meetings and on occasion special
     meetings. The Department is primarily
     engaged in personnel matters and the
     raising  of money for the purchase of
     fire equipment by the holding of
     carnivals, picnics, etc.

 
66 OAG 113  114  115

     The Department makes budget
     recommendations to the Palmyra Fire
     Protection District but has no other
     control over the budgeting process.

     The Palmyra Fire Protection District
     receives funds from the Village and Town
     to provide fire protection service but
     none of the money at any time is under
     the control of the Palmyra Volunteer
     Fire Department."

The answer to your question depends on
whether the Palmyra Fire Department is a
"governmental or quasi-governmental
corporation" within the meaning of
Section  19.82(1), Stats., which
describes the governmental bodies
subject to the open meeting law as follows:

19.82(1)  "Governmental body" means a state
          or local agency, board, commission,
          committee. council, department or
          public body corporate and politic
          created by constitution, statute,
          ordinance, rule or order; a
          governmental or quasi-governmental
          corporation; or a formally
          constituted subunit of any of the
          foregoing, but excludes any such
          body or committee or subunit of
          such body which is formed for or
          meeting for the purpose of
          collective bargaining under
          subchapter IV or V of Chapter 111.

I am of the opinion that the Palmyra Fire
Department is not a "governmental or
quasi-governmental corporation" within the
meaning of Section 19.82(1), Stats., and is
not a governmental body subject to the
provisions of secs. 19.81-19.98, Stats.

The Palmyra Volunteer Fire Department was
apparently organized as a nonstock, nonprofit
corporation under Chapter 181, Stats.,
pursuant to authority granted in Section
213.05, Stats.

It qualifies as a fire department under
Section 213.08, Stats, If it is located in a
village, powers of the trustees are in part
governed by Section 213.02, Stats., and under
Section 213.04, Stats., the village board of
trustees would have power to disband the
company.

In Tonn v. Strehlau, 265 Wis. 250. 61 N.W.2d
486 (1953), it was held that a volunteer fire
company organized under Section 213.05,
Stats., was a privately organized corporation
but that a town could appropriate money to
such corporation for a public purpose.

Section 60.29(18), Stats., authorizes a town
board to establish a fire department or join
with other towns, cities or villages in
establishing a joint fire department; to
contract with any fire department established
by a town, city or village; or to contract
"with any fire association, corporation or
individual for the maintaining, housing and
manning of the fire fighting equipment of
such fire departments," and see. 60.29(18m),
Stats., makes a town liable for the services
of "any fire department . . . appearing to
fight fire in such town upon request" where
the town does not provide protection under
section 60.29(18), Stats.

 
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In Rockwood Volunteer Fire Dept. v. Town of
Kossuth, 260 Wis. 331, 50 N.W.2d 913 (1952),
the court held that the Town of Kossuth which
had no fire department and had not contracted
with one for protection, was liable for
services provided even where the request
came from a private citizen.

However, the fact that a private corporation
provides fire service and receives payment
therefor, pursuant to Section 60.29(18m),
Stats., or under contract with a town
pursuant to Section 60.29(18), Stats.,
does not in my opinion change the status of
such corporation to a "governmental or
quasi-governmental corporation."

Even though a corporation may serve some
public purpose, it is not a "governmental or
quasi-governmental corporation" under Section
19.82(1), Stats., unless it also is created
directly by the Legislature or by some
governmental body pursuant to specific
statutory authorization or direction.
 

BCL:RJV
 
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