Judge orders majority of records unsealed in Racine case

RACINE – The majority of records in a sealed public records lawsuit will soon be made public, Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz ruled today in a closed hearing. Some information within the documents will be redacted, however.

Gasiorkiewicz lifted the seal and gag orders he previously placed on Racine Alderman Sandy Weidner’s lawsuit and agreed to release a version of the docket within the next week, according to an attorney for the WNA and other media organizations.

Weidner filed the lawsuit in 2017, when she was running for mayor, after a dispute with Racine City Attorney Scott Letteney. He alleged Weidner had sent confidential information from her government account to members of the public — illustrating his claims with a PowerPoint presentation mostly featuring Weidner’s emails during a closed session of the executive committee.

Weidner filed a public records request for the presentation and, when denied, she sued for access.

In a move that confounded open government advocates, Gasiorkiewicz sealed the case.

When Weidner spoke out about what she called growing secrecy and concentrated power in her local government, she was held in contempt of court.

The WNA and other media organizations filed a motion to intervene in the case and last month won the right to challenge the judge’s decision. The three-judge appellate court panel ordered Gasiorkiewicz determine to which records, if any, should remain blocked from public view, which was the purpose of today’s hearing.

The coalition of media groups challenging the case also includes the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.