Appeals court affirms release of UW-Oshkosh professor records

The 2nd District Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a Winnebago County judge’s release of personnel records to Alexander Nemec, a reporter with UW-Oshkosh’s student newspaper, The Advance-Titan.

Nemec filed an open records request in March 2017 for a complaint against Willis Hagen, a business professor of more than 30 years at UW-Oshkosh, and documents related to a subsequent investigation. The university redacted 44 pages of responsive records and gave notice to Hagen, who sued to enjoin the university from disclosing the report. He argued personnel records are exempt from the state’s public records law.

The circuit court determined that Hagen hadn’t identified any statutory or common-law exception to disclosure and denied Hagen’s request for an injunction. It also did a balancing test and determined the university’s redactions were overbroad and ordered them to be withdrawn and the records released.

Hagen appealed and the appellate court on Wednesday affirmed the circuit court ruling, stating in its decision that no exemptions exist for records of closed misconduct investigations and noting that, per the balancing test, disclosure was in the public interest.