News-Herald takes legal action against Marshfield School District
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — In an Aug. 10 complaint filed with the Wood County Clerk of Courts, the Marshfield News-Herald took action against the School District of Marshfield.
Citing the Wisconsin Public Records Law, which provides for the transparency of state and local government and all citizens rights to its records, the News-Herald alleges that the Marshfield School District is “withholding and denying access” to records requests.
“The Marshfield News-Herald’s complaint, filed in Wood County Circuit Court, alleges that the Marshfield School District has illegally withheld records about the resignation of occupational therapist Lisa Scheunemann, records about personnel investigations, and information that would help the public reasonably understand the reason for closed-door school board meetings,” stated Mark Treinen, executive editor of News-Herald Media, part of USA Today Network-Wisconsin.
“The News-Herald requested the documents through Wisconsin’s public records law in June after Marshfield School Board member Mary Carney attempted to make Schuenemann’s resignation letter public. Carney alleged that the letter contained information that parents and taxpayers should know about how the district is being managed. The newspaper had sought other records since April, involving personnel investigations of an undisclosed nature,” Treinen said.
The lawsuit details multiple attempts made by Marshfield News-Herald staff member Jonathan Anderson between April and June 2016 to obtain these records.
“The News-Herald took legal action only after giving the district multiple opportunities to comply with the records law,” explained Treinen.
In correspondence contained within the court records, Marshfield School Superintendent Dee Wells responded to Anderson’s requests, stating that the district was “unable to release” the records as they were “exempt from disclosure” under state statutes.
The News-Herald alleges that school representatives “improperly rely upon discredited alleged public policy rationales as ‘blanket exceptions’ to disclosure.”
“You should know what’s going on in your public school system, whether it involves students’ education, tax spending, or employee conduct. The school district’s administration kept that type of information from the community, and in our view, they did it in violation of the law,” stated Treinen.
The Hub City Times has reached out to the Marshfield School District for comment. The request was declined, citing “pending litigation.”