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Union sues Madison School District over unfulfilled records request

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Madison Teachers Inc. is suing the Madison School District over unfulfilled records requests, according to a summons and complaint filed Monday in Dane County Circuit Court.

The complaint states the school district has violated Wisconsin’s public records law by leaving a Nov. 3 records request regarding staff benefits and contracts unfulfilled as of the beginning of May, more than six months after the request was sent to the district by the union.

Wisconsin public records law requires a public authority, such as a public school district, to fulfill a public records request “as soon as practical and without delay” and, the complaint states, that delayed fulfillment of the request has caused and could continue to cause injury by depriving MTI and the public of their rights under the law.

“Six months, that is not as soon as practical,” said Lester Pines, of Pines Bach, the Madison law firm representing MTI.

“The school district, in this instance, told MTI ‘wait in line.’ Well, ‘wait in line’ is not what the statute requires. The statute requires that the entity make a prompt production of the records,” Pines said. “Six months for the kind of records that MTI requested is far beyond what is allowed.”

In November, MTI requested records regarding benefits for teachers and staff, including copies of past contracts with health, eye and dental insurance carriers; copies of current certificates of insurance for Group Health Cooperative-South Central Wisconsin, Dean Health Plan, Delta Dental of Wisconsin and EyeMed; and copies of all records that reflect the administrative fees paid by the district to each of those insurance carriers for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The district attributed the delay in fulfilling the records request to the COVID-related staff shortage and said records requests are fulfilled in the order they are received, in emails to Pines. In mid-December, there were four other requests ahead of MTI. The district told Pines that MTI could expect their request to be fulfilled within the next week, but the district was unable to provide an exact date for that fulfillment.

At the end of January, the district responded to MTI’s records request by saying it would cost the union more than $350, to cover a total of five hours of two staff members’ time, to fulfill. A check was delivered to the district on Feb. 1, Pines said, but as of Monday MTI’s records request had yet to be fulfilled.

“Apparently, the school district has decided that with regard to at least this request, that it’s going to violate the law and it has,” Pines said.

Pines and MTI are seeking for the court to determine that the district did, in fact, violate the open records law; for the court to direct the district to produce the records requested in November without delay; payment for any legal fees incurred by the union to bring the lawsuit against the district; and payment for damages caused by the delay in the district’s fulfillment of the records request.

The district has 20 days to respond from the date they are served, which will likely be Tuesday, Pines said.

District spokesperson Tim LeMonds said the district is unable to comment on pending litigation.


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The union asked for 4.7% base wage increase for teachers as the district offered a 2% increase  not including the additional wage increase tied to experience and educational attainment, known as steps and lanes  during an in-person meeting at the district’s Holtzman Building on Wednesday.

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