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Sauk County won't release proposed health plans before meeting

A Sauk County committee will consider recommending the adoption of a new health plan for government employees during a meeting Friday morning. However, details of the plan, or plans, under consider are unclear because a county official has declined to release documents.

A government official says the public does not have a right to see documents related to proposed health insurance plans for Sauk County employees until after a committee has selected one.

An open government advocate says the official’s reason for withholding the records is a “flagrant violation” of the state’s Open Records Law.

During a meeting Friday morning, the Sauk County Board’s Personnel Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution recommending the adoption of a county health plan for the next three years.

Insurance costs are a big-ticket spending item, and the committee’s decision could impact county budget discussions that are expected to ramp up later this month.

Details of the plan, or plans, under consideration Friday morning are unclear because Personnel Director Michelle Posewitz has declined to provide any documents related to the matter.

The Baraboo News Republic first requested the documents in a Sept. 1 email to Posewitz, a full week before the meeting. In a response four days later, she declined to release records, saying the committee “has not yet made a decision” on the health plan.

Posewitz has not responded to repeated emails since then, and did not return a phone call Thursday.

Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders said the state’s Open Records Law does not allow public documents to be withheld until decisions are made. The law requires government entities to turn over requested records in their possession as soon as practicable and without delay.

“There is nothing unclear about it,” Lueders said. “This is a flagrant violation and one that shows Ms. Posewitz's apparent contempt for the law and for the people who pay her salary.”

As of Thursday afternoon, an online system the county uses to archive meeting videos and documents included no records related to Friday morning’s meeting.

Documents from past personnel committee meetings also are not available because they are not saved by the online system, called Granicus.

Sauk County Management Information Systems Director Steve Pate said in a July 5 email that if a meeting isn’t recorded, Granicus doesn’t create an archive.

“What this means is that, following the meeting, everything associated with the meeting is deleted from the system,” Pate said.

The personnel committee is one of several county panels that do not record their meetings.

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos

Reporter for the Baraboo News Republic.