It is looking like the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin is in need of a little more help at their offices, or they need less help withholding records. They are now being sued by a law firm over long delays in answering requests and confirming receipts of each request. Now, trust of the openness of the records in the state is starting to falter.
One organization that advocates for the environment stated that it took about 10 months to receive the records they asked for from the Department of Natural Resources. The Department of Natural Resources has defended themselves by saying that the organization hasn’t paid up for what they were requesting. However other organizations who have paid in a timely matter have also experienced the same long waiting time for records they requested. The organization has recently filed a suit in the Wisconsin county of Dane against the Department of Natural Resources for the amount of time it has taken to receive a response from them as well as the lengthy process in receiving those records. The records were important because they were related to the concentration of feeding locations and dairy farms on a big scale, as well as wetland permits, and the regulation of tiny air particles.
Not only was the firm representing the environmental organization in the specific cases on the delays in response, but also for the lingering trend of delayed releasing of records for groups that have a legitimate right to request and receive those records. The organization has a lot of ground to sue the Department of Natural Resources. There are many instances where the firm gives evidence of how late it has taken not only their client but other organizations to receive response from the office of the Department. For example, there was a request by the firm for records sent in March, the Department of Natural Resources sent receipt of that request in late March and asked for payment. The firm sent the payment in late June without a response from the Department of Natural Resources that they had received that payment, nor did the firm receive the requested records. The firm then reached out to the Department of Natural Resources with the many modes of communication and those contact methods went unnoticed. When the firm called at the end of the year, the Department of Natural Resources reached out in January of the next year explaining that the payment they sent was overdue and the records were not to be released.
In my opinion this is outrageous. I don’t believe that any agency should take this long doing anything, let alone the fact that these are records that are probably easily accessible and have been paid for. It makes you wonder the reasoning for taking so long to get these responses out to the recipient. Is there lack of public officials who can take the time to process these requests in the state? Or are they withholding these records for some reason? I guess we’ll find out sooner or later as I’m sure there will be a case to follow in the next few months.