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State's Open Records Law may be affected by recent court ruling

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - Experts disagree on whether a recent court ruling could keep more public records sealed throughout Wisconsin.  

A state appeals court said it was okay for the Milwaukee School Board to withhold a female employee's attendance and disciplinary records from a man suspected of abusing her.

Korry Ardell was previously ordered not to contact the woman when he was under a restraining order -- and the Milwaukee School Board said releasing the records could have put the employee in jeopardy.  

Until now, the state Open Records Law did not require Wisconsinites to identify themselves, or explain why they want government records -- and Ardell's attorney, Rebecca Mason, tells the AP that the appellate ruling changes all that.  

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is also concerned for the same reason. The law prohibits those incarcerated from obtaining many public records -- and the appellate court said it was okay to include Ardell in that group, even though he was never in jail and never charged criminally with abusing the woman.  

Attorney Mason said the court decision sets a precedent in which those who don't agree with certain viewpoints can have their public record requests denied.  

Milwaukee assistant city attorney Melanie Rutledge disagrees, saying that the court was only trying to clarify that employee safety should be considered in handling records' requests. Rutledge calls the court decision a narrow one.  

Ardell plans to appeal it to the State Supreme Court.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)