If you’ve ever been in the Kenosha County Courthouse, you would have seen two galleries on either side of the entrance. One displays photos of all 8 Circuit court Judges, and the other displays all of the Kenosha County Board members. It hasn’t been updated in years. It has at least two deceased members of the board still listed.
We write articles pretty often about some of these elected officials. We wanted to have copies of these photos for articles, so we reached out to the Circuit Court Clerk who told us that they were maintained by the County Executive’s office. We asked the County Executive for digital copies of these photos. We submitted a public records request to the County Exec’s office on July 24th. It was ignored for about two months. We asked one of the county’s lawyers, Attorney Jenifer Kopp to intervene and she did. Yesterday, we received a response from Kreuser’s office. They argue unbelievably, that the photos are not public records.
Kreuser’s office manager, Karen Steigerwald told us that she took the photos personally for the court house and County web site but that they are not public records because she “owns the copyrights” to the photos. She also notes “privacy concerns” and said that she would need the Judge’s permission to release them. We have been requesting public records for many years and have successfully sued many times. We have two lawsuits pending at this time for unlawful public records denials. This seems like the most obvious case of an arbitrary denial. These photos were taken by a County Employee, of County Employees, with the intent to display them in public. Arguing that theses aren’t public defies any sort of basic logic. As to the privacy concerns? The photos are seen by thousands of people every week. Surely if the Judge’s were concerned with privacy, they could take the photos down, but to seek to be elected to public office, especially a position with such authority, waives much of your expectation to privacy. We will be reviewing taking the county to court for these photos. Sometimes the county shouldn’t fight unwinnable battles such as these.
**After the publishing of this story, we were contacted by County Attorney Joseph Cardamone. He told the KCE that he will be re-examining our request. Hopefully Corporation Counsel Cardamone does the right thing.**