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New Richmond News, city reach settlement in records case

A lawsuit between a RiverTown Multimedia newspaper and the city of New Richmond has been settled.

A stipulation for dismissal was issued July 28 in St. Croix County Circuit Court, which includes a provision stating there would be no further cost to either party in the lawsuit.

The suit was originally filed in 2013 by former RiverTown Publisher Steve Dzubay and the New Richmond News, who alleged the city violated Wisconsin's public records law by redacting accident reports. The city said the redactions were mandated by the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act.

St. Croix County Circuit Court in 2014 ruled in favor of the newspaper and entered a judgment against the city for $63,583 in attorney's fees, which was later paid by the city to the paper.

The city appealed the ruling, however, and both parties petitioned for the case to be heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The high court heard the case in 2015 but found itself deadlocked, sending the case back to an appeals court.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals in 2016 affirmed part of the lower court's order and reversed another part. The ruling affirmed the newspaper's argument pertaining to accident reports, but sided with the city's argument pertaining to incident reports of crimes — at least until the circuit court sounds off on the issue.

As part of the appellate court's ruling, both sides concluded the city was required to disclose the accident records without redaction.

However, the appropriate funding for work performed by attorneys after the 2014 ruling remained in dispute. Last week's settlement saw the newspaper release the city from all outstanding claims, including $70,000 in attorney's fees.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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