The State of Wisconsin recognizes the importance of having a public informed about governmental
affairs. The state’s open meetings law declares that:
In recognition of the fact that a representative government of the American type is
dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be the policy of this state that the public
is entitled to the fullest and most complete information regarding the affairs of government as is
compatible with the conduct of governmental business.
Wis. Stat. § 19.81(1). 2
In order to advance this policy, the open meetings law requires that “all meetings of all state and local
governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be
open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.” Wis. Stat. § 19.81(2). There is thus
a presumption that meetings of governmental bodies must be held in open session. State ex rel. Newspapers v.
Showers, 135 Wis. 2d 77, 97, 398 N.W.2d 154 (1987). Although there are some exemptions allowing closed
sessions in specified circumstances, they are to be invoked sparingly and only where necessary to protect the
public interest. The policy of the open meetings law dictates that governmental bodies convene in closed session
only where holding an open session would be incompatible with the conduct of governmental affairs. “Mere
government inconvenience is . . . no bar to the requirements of the law.” State ex rel. Lynch v. Conta,
71 Wis. 2d 662, 678, 239 N.W.2d 313 (1976).