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Wyoming

Open Government Guide

Author

Bruce T. Moats, Esquire
Law Office of Bruce T. Moats, P.C.
2515 Pioneer Avenue
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82001
(307) 778-8844

Michael J. Krampner, Esq., prepared the first edition of this work in 1989 with Lee Miller, Esq., who prepared the second edition in 1993. Dave Evans, Esq., prepared the third edition in 1997.

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Foreword

The public of policy of the State of Wyoming as expressed in its Open Meetings Act and Public Records Act is disclosure — not secrecy. Sheridan Newspapers v. City of Sheridan, 660 P.2d 785, 792, 796 n.14 (Wyo. 1983). The Wyoming Supreme Court in announcing its decision in Sheridan Newspapers said:

This holding is but another pronouncement from this court having to do with making the public's business available to the public whenever that is possible. The courts, legislature, administrative agencies, and the state, county and municipal governments should be ever mindful that theirs is public business and the public has a right to know how its servants are conducting its business. Furthermore, it is for government to remember that the written, viewing and broadcasting press are the eyes and ears of the people. The citizenry must be permitted to hear and see what public officers and their employees say and do whenever the imparting of this knowledge does not run contrary to the rights of those otherwise protected in a way that would result in disclosure having the effect of inflicting such irreparable harm as is recognized at law.

The Wyoming Supreme Court has found a constitutional right of access to government information under the applicable freedom-of-the-press and due-process provisions of the federal and state constitutions.

The Legislature does have the authority to promulgate restraints upon the news-gathering business as will best serve the "public good." These restraints may not, however, unlawfully deny the people's right to be informed. Otherwise, the restrictions would run the risk of violating the First or Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Id. at 795.

Importantly, the Court explicitly recognized that the Public Meetings Act, like the Public Records Act, must be given a liberal construction in favor of openness, and all exceptions to public access strictly construed.

The Public Records Act specifically provides that if the right to inspect a record is allowed to any employee of a newspaper, radio or television station, or other employee of the "media," access must be allowed to all news media employees. In other words, a public official who is the custodian of records may not give copies of the requested records to one reporter but refuse to give the same records to another.

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Open Records

I. Statute

The remedial purpose of the Public Records Act is "to permit access to public records unless disclosure would inflict irreparable harm contrary to protected rights." Id.

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A. Who can request records?

Any person has the right to request inspection of public records and to make copies of those records.  The courts have allowed media corporations and citizen associations to seek records.

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1. Status of requester

The identity of the requester or the purpose for which the records are sought are irrelevant as to whether the record is available for public access.  The pertinent question is whether the record is available to public.  If so, anyone may inspect it. Laramie River Conversation Council v. Dinger, 567 P.2d 731 (Wyo. 1977); Shaeffer v. University of Wyoming, 2006 WY 99.

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2. Purpose of request

The requester's purpose cannot affect his right to receive records. "A showing of need is unnecessary to obtain access to public records and a criminal penalty is provided for those custodians who deny access." Laramie River Conservation Council v. Dinger, 577 P.2d 731, 773 (Wyo. 1977).

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3. Use of records

The law makes no restrictions on subsequent use of information provided.

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B. Whose records are and are not subject to the act

1. Executive branch

All public records of the executive should be subject to the Act. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-202(a).

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2. Legislative bodies

The Legislature has exempted itself from much of the reach of the Public Records Act.  W.S. §28-8-116.  Communications of a legislator with staff and constituents are confidential unless waived by the legislator. Draft bills and consultant reports to the Legislature are exempt unless confidentiality is waived by the bill sponsor or the Legislature.

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3. Courts

Public records of the Courts should be subject to the Act. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-202(a) (1977, Rev. 1982). See generally Williams v. Stafford, 589 P.2d 322, 325 (Wyo. 1979) (access to court proceedings should be limited only under exceptional circumstances). In juvenile court proceedings, however, all information, reports or records made are confidential. Wyo. Stat. § 14-6-203 (1977, Rev. 1997).

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4. Nongovernmental bodies

The Wyoming Supreme Court has yet to be faced with a case that involves the issue of access to records of a private entity performing a governmental function.

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5. Multi-state or regional bodies

Public records of the Wyoming representatives on these bodies should be subject to the Act. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-202(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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6. Advisory boards and commissions, quasi-governmental entities

The Wyoming Supreme Court has said that the Public Records Act will receive a liberal construction in favor of disclosure and against withholding, so it is likely that the language in Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-201 (a)(v) will be interpreted to include advisory boards. Sheridan Newspapers Inc. v. City of Sheridan, 660 P.2d 785, (Wyo. 1983); but cf. Wyo. Attorney General Op. 73-17 (1973).

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7. Others

Any records determined to be official public records or office files and memoranda will be subject to the Act. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-201(a)(vi) (1977, Rev. 1982); Wyo. Stat. § 9-2-405 (1977, Rev. 1987).

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C. What records are and are not subject to the act?

1. What kinds of records are covered?

Any record made by a governmental entity “in furtherance of its official and transaction of public business,” except those privileged or confidential by law. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-201(a)(v).

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2. What physical form of records are covered

Records in any physical form, including paper or electronic records are covered. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-201(a)(v).

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3. Are certain records available for inspection but not copying?

Examinations may be inspected but not copied. (Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(b)(ii) (1977, & Cum. Supp. 1996). Any other record that can be inspected can be copied. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-204(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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4. Telephone call logs

Telephone logs meet the definition of public records in the Act.

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5. Electronic records

As previously mentioned, the statute specifically includes electronic records. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-201(a)(v). A subsection of the Act, Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-402(d), specifically addresses records which are kept solely or primarily in an electronic format. The section requires an agency to extract information, or create a new record or document from a computer database upon request unless the creation of the new record or the compilation of the information would impair the agency's ability to fulfill its duties. The custodian may charge for the cost of creating the new record.  Further, the custodian may charge for the search and retrieval costs of providing an electronic record for inspection. Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc. v. Laramie Cty. Sch. District No. 1. 2016 WY 113.

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a. Can the requester choose a format for receiving records?

If the records are in electronic format, the custodian shall provide the record in “alternative formats unless doing so is impractical or impossible.  W.S. §16-4-202(d)(ii).

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b. Can the requester obtain a customized search of computer databases to fit particular needs

W.S.§16-4-0202(d)(iii) states: “An agency shall not be required to compile data, extract data or create a new document to comply with an electronic record request if doing so would impair the agency’s ability to discharge its duties.”

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c. Does the existence of information in electronic format affect its openness?

Only by charging search and retrieval fees for the inspection of electronic documents.

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d. Online dissemination

The convicted sex offender registry, in which offenders are entered if the likelihood of a re-offense is high, must be accessible online. Wyo. Stat. § 7-19-303(c)(iii) (1977) (current through 2005 legislative session). The statute also lists the type of information about the offender which is included in the database.

Also, state contracts are generally available on the Department of Information and Administration website.

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6. How is email treated?

Emails are generally covered as electronic records and the statute specifically states that written electronic communication received by a governmental entity are covered, whether at a meeting or outside a meeting.  W.S. §16-4-201(v).  No Wyoming case has specifically addressed whether it matters that the email was created or received on a government device.  An email purely on a private matter probably would not be in the furtherance of the government’s official function.  However, if an email that does directly relate to the transaction of official business was used by a governmental entity in the course of an investigation, it may be available for public inspection.  Shaeffer v. University of Wyoming, 2006 WY 99.

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7. How are text messages and instant messages treated?

No Wyoming cases have yet addressed this issue, but the broad definition of a record as including electronic communications should include text or instant messages.

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8. How are social media postings treated?

No, Wyoming cases have yet addressed this issue, nor is it specifically discussed in the statute.

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9. Computer software

An agency may decline access to records if it would compromise the security or integrity of "any propriety software."  Wyo. Stat. 16-4-202(d)(iv).

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D. Fee provisions or practices

1. Levels or limitations on fees

Fees charged for inspection of records are different depending on whether the records are in printed or electronic form.  A custodian may not charge for inspection of a printed record, but may charge for the reasonable search and retrieval fees for inspection of an electronic record.  Cheyenne Newspapers v. Laramie County School District No. 1, 2016 WY 113.

The Supreme Court has not ruled on what may constitute the reasonable cost of search and retrieval of electronic records.  Reasonable fees may also be charged for the copies. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-204(b). The official custodian may charge a reasonable fee for the services rendered by him or his deputy in supervising the copying, printing or photographing when such copying, printing or photographing is performed by the requester.  Fee schedules must be established by rule, regulation, ordinance or law.

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2. Particular fee specifications or provisions

Duplication is controlled by the reasonable fee provision.

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3. Provisions for fee waivers

There are no provisions for fee waivers, but it appears to be within the discretion of the custodian to waive fees if allowed by written policy.

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4. Requirements or prohibitions regarding advance payment

Governmental entities have policies that require advance payment.  The legality of doing so has not been tested in court.

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5. Have agencies imposed prohibitive fees to discourage requesters?

Governmental entities have charged fees in the thousands of dollars, though it has not been established they did so specifically to discourage access.

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6. How are fees for electronic records determined?

By the actual cost of reproduction or, in the case of electronic records, the amount of time taken by government officials or employees in retrieving the electronic records.

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E. Who enforces the act?

The District Court where the records are found.  A person denied access may seek a written explanation setting forth the reasons and legal authority for the denial.  The requester then may petition the district court for a order requiring the custodian to show cause why the records should not be released. W.S. §16-4-203(f).

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1. Attorney General's role

Violations of the Act are punishable by a civil penalty, but the attorney general or appropriate county attorney must initiate an action to seek the penalty. W.S. §16-4-205.

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2. Availability of an ombudsman

Wyoming does not have an ombudsman.

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3. Commission or agency enforcement

None.

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F. Are there sanctions for noncompliance?

A knowing and intentional violation is punishable by civil penalty not to exceed $750.

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G. Record-holder obligations

1. Processing records requests

Records that are readily available must be provided immediately.  If the records are in active use or storage, then the custodian must respond to the request within seven days.  If the records are not produced within the seven days, the response must state why the records are not available and a time period for when it is anticipated the records will be made available.  A requester may ask a court to judge whether the custodian has demonstrated good cause for the delay.  W.S.§ 16-4-202(c)

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2. Proactive disclosure requirements

State Contracts are posted on the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information website.

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3. Records retention requirements

Wyoming records retention schedules are available on the State Archives website.

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A. Exemptions in the open records statute

1. Character of exemptions

The Wyoming Public Records Act has two different sections discussing exemptions to public disclosure.  The first section lists categories of records that may be withheld if disclosure “would be contrary to the public interest.”  W.S. §16-4-203(b). The reasons for non-disclosure must outweigh the state's public policy of openness.  A so-called catch-all exemption allows the custodian to go to court to withhold records not covered by an exception if the custodian can prove that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(b) (1977 & Cum. Supp. 1996). A custodian must petition the district court if he wishes to withhold a record pursuant to the general exemption.

The second section states that the custodian shall deny inspection to the categories of records listed.  W.S. §16-4-203(d).  However, the Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that records listed in W.S. §16-4-203(d) may only withheld if disclosure would cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Houghton v. Franscell, 870 P.2d 1050 (Wyo. 1994)

There are Wyoming exemptions that are similar to the federal statute. The Wyoming Supreme Court has used the federal statute and case law when interpreting the Public Records Law. Sheridan Newspapers Inc. v. City of Sheridan, 660 P.2d at 791-97; Stephen Jouard, Note, A Constitutional Right To Access To State-Held Information, 19 Land & Water L. Rev. 719, 723 (1984).

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2. Discussion of each exemption

  1. Discretionary Exemptions.

            Records that may be withheld if the harm from disclosure would outweigh the public’s right to know are:

(i)  Records of investigations conducted by, or of intelligence information or security procedures of, any sheriff, county attorney, city attorney, the attorney general, the state auditor, police department or any investigatory files compiled for any other law enforcement or prosecution purposes;

(ii)  Test questions, scoring keys and other examination data pertaining to administration of a licensing examination and examination for employment or academic examination. Written promotional examinations and the scores or results thereof shall be available for inspection, but not copying or reproduction, by the person in interest after the examination has been conducted and graded;

(iii)  The specific details of bona fide research projects being conducted by a state institution;

(iv)  Except as otherwise provided by Wyoming statutes or for the owner of the property, the contents of real estate appraisals made for the state or a political subdivision thereof, relative to the acquisition of property or any interest in property for public use, until such time as title of the property or property interest has passed to the state or political subdivision. The contents of the appraisal shall be available to the owner of the property or property interest at any time;

(v)  Interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be available by law to a private party in litigation with the agency;

(vi)  To the extent that the inspection would jeopardize the security of any structure owned, leased or operated by the state or any of its political subdivisions, facilitate the planning of a terrorist attack or endanger the life or physical safety of an individual, including:

(A)  Vulnerability assessments, specific tactics, emergency procedures or security procedures contained in plans or procedures designed to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks or other security threats;

(B)  Building plans, blueprints, schematic drawings, diagrams, operational manuals or other records that reveal the building's or structure's internal layout, specific location, life and safety and support systems, structural elements, surveillance techniques, alarms, security systems or technologies, operational and transportation plans or protocols, personnel deployments for airports and other mass transit facilities, bridges, tunnels, emergency response facilities or structures, buildings where hazardous materials are stored, arenas, stadiums and waste and water systems;

(C)  Records of any other building or structure owned, leased or operated by the state or any of its political subdivisions that reveal the building's or structure's life and safety systems, surveillance techniques, alarm or security systems or technologies, operational and evacuation plans or protocols or personnel deployments; and

(D)  Records prepared to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks or other security threats identifying or describing the name, location, pharmaceutical cache, contents, capacity, equipment, physical features, or capabilities of individual medical facilities, storage facilities or laboratories established, maintained, or regulated by the state or any of its political subdivisions.

(vii)  An application for the position of president of an institution of higher education, letters of recommendation or references concerning the applicant and records or information relating to the process of searching for and selecting the president of an institution of higher education, if the records or information could be used to identify a candidate for the position.  As used in this paragraph "institution of higher education" means the University of Wyoming and any community college in this state.

  1. Case law applicable to ‘discretionary’ exceptions to access.

The first exception has to do with the investigation records and files of law enforcement agencies, including prosecutors, as well as intelligence information and information relating to security procedures. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(b)(i) (1977 & Cum. Supp. 1996). It was this exception that was at issue in Sheridan Newspapers Inc. v. City of Sheridan, 660 P.2d 785 (Wyo. 1983). The Sheridan Police Chief denied public access to "rolling logs," a chronological index of complaints and reports to the police dispatcher, "case reports" (reports of the activities of officers), "jail logs" or rosters, and traffic reports and citations. The police chief, contrary to the Public Records Act, gave no reason for closing these records, despite a request for an explanation from the newspaper. Id.

Citing its earlier decision in Laramie River Conservation Council, the Wyoming Supreme Court first declared that the objects of the Public Records Act are disclosure, an open and accountable government, and the prevention of secrecy. Id. The Public Records Act would therefore be construed in light of this policy, with an emphasis on accountability, "unless the custodian of such records can show a legal prohibition to disclosure." Id.

The Court held that the Sheridan Press had a constitutional right to the disputed materials, subject to the exceptions and limitations set forth in the Public Records Act. Id. It noted that the police chief's closure of entire categories of records was inappropriate, as the closure of records must be on a selective basis. Id. The requested materials should therefore have been examined and segregated by the police chief on a document-by-document basis. Id.

Based on these principles and the Public Records Act, the Court held that the Sheridan Press was entitled to all the requested records and noted that any particular records falling within an exception to the general rule of disclosure could be taken up on a case-by-case basis. Id.

Pursuant to the exception for inter- and intra-agency memoranda and letters that would not be available to a party in litigation with the agency. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(b)(v), the Wyoming Supreme Court adopted the so-called “deliberative process privilege.” Aland v. Mead, 2104 WY 83.  The privilege allows non-disclosure of records providing the close, personal advice of an advisor to an executive decision-maker prior to the decision being made.  If the decision-maker accepts the advice, then the record must be released.   Earlier the Court had ruled that proposed budget cuts provided by state departments to the governor were not covered by the privilege, and, therefore declined to decide then whether the privilege existed in Wyoming. In 2010, the Wyoming Supreme Court ordered the release of budget reduction recommendations made to the governor by state department heads.  Freudenthal v. Cheyenne Newspapers 2010 WY 80.

In 2000, the Court in Allsop v. Cheyenne Newspapers, 2002 Wyo. 22, 39 P.3d 1092 (2002), found that a report compiled by a nationally known expert analyzing the jail after a rash of suicides and suicide attempts was not exempt from public disclosure, pursuant to the investigative records exception.  The Court rejected claims by the Sheriff that the report would provide a road map to suicide and escape at the jail. The District Court had ordered the report released except for one redaction which might compromise the safety of the jail. The Supreme Court reaffirmed that exempt material should be redacted from public records and non-exempt material released to the public. The Court further found that conclusory affidavits from custodians and their agents regarding potential harm to the public interest from disclosure were insufficient to support withdrawal of the records from public scrutiny. Custodians must present a factual basis to support their opinions that a harm to the public interest will occur.

In a 2011 case, the Court analyzed the so-called personnel records exemption. A school district declined to release the salaries earned by teachers.  The Supreme Court ruled that salaries must be released pursuant to a provision in personnel exemption that expressly states that documents containing the "terms and conditions" of employment, including employment contracts, are open to public inspection. Laramie County School Dist. No. 1 v. Cheyenne Newspapers, 2011 WY 55. The Court rejected the argument by the school district that a state statute requiring the publication of the legal notice of the salaries paid by district only required the publication of salary by category and not by individual expressed an intent by the Legislature that the salaries of individuals were confidential.

In Laramie River Conservation Council v. Dinger, 567 P.2d 731 (Wyo. 1977) the Laramie River Conservation Council (LRCC) sought access to a transcript of proceedings before the Industrial Siting Council, a state agency. The District Court denied LRCC's request, holding that the transcript was an intra-agency or interagency memorandum, and therefore specifically exempted from disclosure by the Public Records Act. Id. The Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that the hearing was public, and a transcript of a public hearing is a public record not exempted by the Public Records Act. Id. In short, the Wyoming Supreme Court refused to allow the Siting Council to engage in the subterfuge of calling the transcript a "memorandum," which would have allowed the Council to hide behind an inapplicable Public Records Act exception.

  1. “Mandatory” exemptions.

The second category of records states that the custodian shall withhold the records from public inspection.  The records included are:

(i)  Medical, psychological and sociological data on individual persons, exclusive of coroners' verdicts and written dockets as provided in W.S. 7-4-105(a);

(ii)  Adoption records or welfare records on individual persons;

(iii)  Personnel files except those files shall be available to the duly elected and appointed officials who supervise the work of the person in interest. Applications, performance ratings and scholastic achievement data shall be available only to the person in interest and to the duly elected and appointed officials who supervise his work. Employment contracts, working agreements or other documents setting forth the terms and conditions of employment of public officials and employees are not considered part of a personnel file and shall be available for public inspection;

(iv)  Letters of reference;

(v)  Trade secrets, privileged information and confidential commercial, financial, geological or geophysical data furnished by or obtained from any person;

(vi)  Library, archives and museum material contributed by private persons, to the extent of any limitations placed thereon as conditions of the contributions;

(vii)  Hospital records relating to medical administration, medical staff, personnel, medical care and other medical information, whether on individual persons or groups, or whether of a general or specific classification;

(viii)  School district records containing information relating to the biography, family, physiology, religion, academic achievement and physical or mental ability of any student except to the person in interest or to the officials duly elected and appointed to supervise him;

(ix)  Library patron transaction and registration records except as required for administration of the library or except as requested by a custodial parent or guardian to inspect the records of his minor child;

(x)  Information obtained through a 911 emergency telephone system or through a verification system for motor vehicle insurance or bond as provided under W.S. 31-4-103(e) except to law enforcement personnel or public agencies for the purpose of conducting official business, to the person in interest, or pursuant to a court order;

(xi)  Records or information compiled solely for purposes of investigating violations of, and enforcing, internal personnel rules or personnel policies the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;

(xii)  Information regarding the design, elements and components, and location of state information technology security systems and physical security systems;

(xiii)  Records or information relating to individual diagnoses of contagious, infectious, communicable, toxic and genetic diseases maintained or collected by the Wyoming state veterinary laboratory as provided in W.S. 21-17-308(e);

(xiv)  Information concerning an agricultural operation, farming or conservation practice, or the land itself, if the information was provided by an agricultural producer or owner of agricultural land in order to participate in a program of the state or any agency, institution or political subdivision of the state.  The custodian shall also deny the right of inspection to geospatial information maintained about the agricultural land or operations. Provided, however, that if otherwise permitted by law, the inspection of the information described in this paragraph shall be allowed in accordance with the following:

(A)  The custodian may allow the right of inspection when responding to a disease or pest threat to agricultural operations, if the custodian determines that a threat to agricultural operations exists and the disclosure of information is necessary to assist in responding to the disease or pest threat as authorized by law;

(B)  The custodian shall allow the right of inspection of payment information under a program of the state or of any agency, institution or political subdivision of the state, including the names and addresses of recipients of payments;

(C)  The custodian shall allow the right of inspection if the information has been transformed into a statistical or aggregate form without naming:

(I)  Any individual owner, operator or producer; or

(II)  A specific data gathering site.

(D)  The custodian shall allow the right of inspection if the disclosure of information is pursuant to the consent of the agricultural producer or owner of the agricultural land;

(E)  As used in this paragraph:

(I)  "Agricultural operation" means the production and marketing of agricultural products or livestock;

(II)  "Agricultural producer" means any producer of livestock, crops or dairy products from an agricultural operation.

(xv)  Within any record held by an agency, any income tax return or any individual information derived by the agency from an income tax return, however information derived from these documents may be released if sufficiently aggregated or redacted so that the persons or entities involved cannot be identified individually;

(xvi)  Except as required in a contested case hearing, any individual records involved in any workers’ compensation claim, however information derived from these documents may be released if sufficiently aggregated or redacted so that the persons or entities involved cannot be identified individually;

(xvii)  Any records of the consensus revenue estimating group as defined in W.S. 9-2-1002, that discloses information considered by, or deliberations or tentative decisions of, the group;

(xviii)  Information obtained through a peace officer recording provided that:

(A)  The custodian shall allow the right of inspection to law enforcement personnel or public agencies for the purpose of conducting official business or pursuant to a court order;

(B)  The custodian may allow the right of inspection:

(I)  To the person in interest;

(II)  If the information involves an incident of deadly force or serious bodily injury as defined in W.S. 6-1-104(a)(x);

(III)  In response to a complaint against a law enforcement personnel and the custodian of the information determines inspection is not contrary to the public interest;

(IV)  In the interest of public safety.

(xix)  Any records of the investment funds committee, created by W.S. 9-4-720, that disclose information considered by the committee, committee deliberations or tentative decisions of the committee. [NOTE: This paragraph will be effective 7/1/2018.]

  1. Case law applicable to ‘mandatory’ exemptions.

In Houghton v. Franscell, 870 P.2d 1050 (Wyo. 1994), the Supreme Court ruled that for records to fit within the categories, release must constitute an unwarranted invasion of the privacy. The Court defined an unwarranted invasion of privacy as: "Unwarranted publicity, unwarranted appropriation or exploitation of one's personality, or the publicizing of one's private affairs with which the public had no legitimate concern." Id. at 1055. In Houghton, the Gillette (Wyo.) News-Record requested access from the Campbell County Hospital District to any and all records concerning guarantees of income made to physicians locating in Gillette. Id. The hospital cited the hospital records exemption outlined at Wyoming Statute 16-4-203(d)(vii), which includes an exemption for hospital records regarding medical personnel and staff. The newspaper argued that the records were the property of the hospital district as opposed to the hospital itself, and that the exemption did not apply to the district. Id. The newspaper also alleged that the exemption only applied to medical information concerning specific patients. Id.

The Court relied on the holding of Sheridan Newspapers Inc., 660 P.2d 785, that the object of the Public Records Act is disclosure, not secrecy, and that the Act should be interpreted liberally in favor of disclosure. The Court held this is especially true regarding records relating to expenditures of public funds. Id at 1052. The Court noted that there is a constitutional right of access to public records. The Court held that the State may not exclude an entire class of records for public inspection absent a compelling state interest. Id at 1053. The Court stated that the language of the exception was plain and unambiguous and that the language exempting hospital records relating to medical staff and personnel did not include the contract requested by the newspaper. Id. In interpreting the statute, the Court indicated that any review of what an exemption means under the Wyoming Public Records Act must include a balancing of privacy interests against the public's right to know. Id.

After the Houghton case, the Court decided Wyoming Department of Transportation v. International Union of Operating Engineers Local Union 800, 908 P.2d 970 (Wyo. 1995). In that case, the Operating Engineers requested payroll information forms submitted to the Wyoming Department of Transportation by its contractors. Id. The forms were required to be submitted to the Wyoming Department of Transportation under the federal Davis-Bacon Act, which is the federal prevailing wage act. Id. On any state highway project using federal funds, the federal prevailing wage had to be used, and any contractors on the job had to present payroll information to the Department of Transportation. Id. The Department of Transportation agreed to submit the materials to the Operating Engineers but wanted to remove the names and addresses. Id. The Department of Transportation argued that including the names and addresses on the records would serve no purpose and would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Id. The Operating Engineers, on the other hand, alleged that the payroll records could determine whether or not the Department of Transportation and the contractors were complying with the prevailing wage. Id. The Operating Engineers also asserted that confirming information with individual workers was essential to that process. Id.

The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Operating Engineers, stating that the concerns regarding Operating Engineers reviewing the names and addresses of workers did not rise to the level of the public's right to have the information released. Id. The Court noted that the workers had already released their names and addresses to the contractor, who had released them to the state, who had in turn released them to the federal government. Id. The Court ruled that even if the Engineers contacted the workers at their homes, such contact would not be significantly disruptive of their privacy. Id. It is of interest that the Court was willing to consider the balance of interests even though it had already rejected any specific exemptions cited by the Wyoming Department of Transportation. One could argue that the Court is willing to use the balancing test for any issue that comes under the Wyoming Public Records Act. The Court may, however, have simply been indicating that the Court's analysis of the exceptions on their face was supported by the balancing test as used in Houghton.

Interestingly, the Court gave no deference to the Department of Transportation regulations on the subject, stating that the agency did not have "distinctive expertise to construe this special statute . . . thus, we will not accord any deference to its construction of the statute or its parallel regulations." Id at 973. Presumably, the Court will make such a statement when considering any agency regulations that infringe on the Public Records Act.

In a 2006, the issue was whether a recording made outside the scope of a university employee’s duties constituted a public record.  A state district court agreed with the University of Wyoming that surreptitious tape recording of a university committee meeting was not a public record under Wyoming Public Records Act, as the university had not created the document.  The Wyoming Supreme Court reversed, ruling that the tape was received by the university in the course of its public business, as it was used in an investigation of whether a former employee had engaged in misconduct. Sheaffer v. State ex. rel. University of Wyoming, 2006 WY 99, 139 P.3d 468. The Court further ruled that that provision in the Public Records Act that exempts from disclosure records and information that were compiled solely for purposes of investigating violations or enforcing internal personnel rules or policies, the disclosure of which would clearly constitute unwarranted invasion of privacy, did not apply to surreptitious tape recording, as it was not compiled “solely” or “exclusively” for purposes of university's internal investigation of manager since tape pre-existed investigation. W.S. 16-4-203(d)(xi).

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B. Other statutory exclusions

There are other laws specifically exempting certain materials from public inspection, and the Public Records Act recognizes the primacy of those statutes. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(a)(i).

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C. Court-derived exclusions, common law prohibitions, recognized privileges against disclosure

There is no Wyoming case law in this area. The Wyoming Supreme Court has rejected recognition of the so-called deliberative process privilege for now, but left open the possibility that the privilege of narrow scope might be recognized under appropriate circumstances. See Cheyenne Newspapers v. Freudenthal, discussed in the Foreword.

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D. Are segregable portions of records containing exempt material available?

Exempt material may be segregated or the records may be structured to provide the information the public is entitled to have. Sheridan Newspapers Inc. v. City of Sheridan, 660 P.2d at 797; Allsop v. Cheyenne Newspapers, 2002 Wyo. 22, 39 P.3d 1092 (2002).

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III. Record categories - open or closed

A. Autopsy and coroners reports

Pursuant to amendments adopted in 2011, only the coroner's verdict is open.  The verdict must contain any relevant toxicology information. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(I). For good cause, a petitioner may ask the Court to allow public access to the complete autopsy reports.

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B. Administrative enforcement records (e.g., worker safety and health inspections, or accident investigations)

These records are open, unless they fit an exemption in the Act.  Worker Compensation cases are expressly confidential.

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C. Bank records

Subject to public interest classification by the state examiner's rules. Wyo. Stat. § 13-3-505 (1977).

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D. Budgets

Budgets are open to inspection. The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled than the public interest in access is never greater than it is in records related to the expenditure of public funds and exceptions in the statutes to public access must be “expressly textual.” Houghton v. Franscell, 870 P.2d 1050 (Wyo. 1994).

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E. Business records, financial data, trade secrets

In decision discussing the “confidential commercial information” exemption in Sublette County Rural Health Care District v. Miley, 942 P.2d 1101 (Wyo. 1997), the court considered a suit against a county rural health care district in which the plaintiff sought disclosure of financial reports that physicians submitted to the district. The physicians were required to make the reports pursuant to contracts that governed the operation of their clinic, which was in a building owned by the district. Id. The district contended that the reports fell under the confidential commercial data exception to the disclosure requirements of the Public Records Act, Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(v). Id. The court agreed, reasoning that such disclosure was likely to impair the district's ability to acquire necessary information because physicians could not be expected to divulge sensitive financial information if the district was required to disseminate it to the public. Id. The court also noted that mandatory disclosure of the financial statements was likely to cause substantial harm to the physicians' competitive positions. Id.

In Powder River Basin Res. Council v. Wyo. Oil & Gas Conservation Comm'n, 2014 WY 37, the Court adopted a restrictive definition of a trade secret.  It held a trade secret was “a secret, commercially valuable plan, formula, process, or device that is used for the making, preparing, compounding, or processing of trade commodities and that can be said to be the end product of either innovation or substantial effort, with a direct relationship between the trade secret and the productive process.”

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F. Contracts, proposals and bids

All are subject to the Public Records Act.

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G. Collective bargaining records

May be covered by the intra-agency memorandum provision, but there are no specific provisions covering this situation. As intra-agency memoranda that would not be available to a party in litigation, the custodian has discretion whether to release this information.

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H. Economic development records

Economic development records either created or received by a public agency are generally open to the public.  Wyoming has no case law pertaining to the availability of records held by public/private nonprofit entities dedicated to economic development.

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I. Election Records

All election records of a county are public unless specifically exempted. Registration lists are available for political purposes only and are not available for commercial purposes.  Personally identifiable information, such as Social Security Numbers, driver's license numbers, birth dates and telephone numbers, are confidential.  Names, gender and addresses are not confidential.

All election records of a county are public unless specifically exempted. Registration lists are available for political purposes only and are not available for commercial purposes.  Personally identifiable information, such as Social Security Numbers, driver's license numbers, birth dates and telephone numbers, are confidential.  Names, gender and addresses are not confidential.

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J. Emergency Medical Services records

Currently, emergency medical services claim that public access to their records are prohibited by HIPAA.  The claim has not yet been litigated.

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K. Gun permits

The Wyoming Legislature enacted a law in 2011 that all Wyoming citizens may carry concealed weapons.  Concealed carry permits are confidential.

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L. Homeland security and anti-terrorism measures

The Act contains exemptions designed to avoid providing information that might assist an attack by terrorists. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(b)(vi). A custodian may withhold information that is covered by specific categories set forth in the Act if inspection "would jeopardize" the security of any government structure, facilitate the planning of a terrorist attack or endanger the life or physical safety of an individual. The record categories covered are vulnerability assessments, security and surveillance systems and procedures, certain building plans, evacuation plans and records prepared to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks.

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M. Hospital reports

There is an exemption for hospital records, including those relating to medical administration and "other medical information . . . whether of a general or specific classification." This exemption has been limited by the Wyoming Supreme Court to those records regarding medical treatment and that would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. See Houghton v. Franscell, 870 P.2d 1050.

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N. Personnel records

Generally, personnel records are confidential if they contain the type of personal information normally seen in a personnel file. This does not include records of qualifications that an employee has for his or her position, including work history and educational degrees.  Severance agreements are publicly available under the provision that documents setting forth the terms and conditions of employment are expressly available to the public.

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1. Salary

The salary, along with any other documents containing the terms and conditions of employment, are open to public inspection.

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2. Disciplinary records

Generally confidential, unless they are also generated for another purpose, such an an investigation in potential criminal conduct.

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3. Applications

Confidential. However, other records related to employment searches, such as itineraries, are not confidential, except for records of searches for university or college presidents are expressly confidential under the Act if disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.

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4. Personally identifying information

Social security numbers, financial account numbers, and month and day of birth are to be redacted from court and other records.

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5. Expense reports

These reports should be open to public inspection, as no exemption applies.  There has been no court cases examining this issue directly.  The Wyoming Supreme Court said any exemption forbidding the disclosure of records related to the expenditure of public funds must be expressly textual.

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6. Other

O. Police records

Generally, police records are open for inspection unless the disclosure would impair the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.  Any reason supporting withdrawal must outweigh the public's interest in disclosure.

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1. Accident reports

Generally, open.

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2. Police blotter

Open to the extent the blotter does not include information that results from an investigation and the release would impair the investigation.  See Sheridan v. Sheridan Newspapers.

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3. 911 tapes

Exempt from disclosure.  Wyo. Stat. 16-4-203(d)(x).

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4. Investigatory records

Only closed where release would impair the investigation. See Sheridan v. Sheridan Newspapers in Foreword.

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5. Arrest records

Open to the public.

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6. Compilations of criminal histories

Criminal histories maintained by the Department of Criminal Investigation for the purpose of identifying suspects in crimes are confidential.  Wyo. Stat. 7-19-106 &109.

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7. Victims

In sexual assault cases, public employees shall not release the name of the victim or information reasonably likely to identify the victim.

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8. Confessions

No exemption is included in the law.

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9. Confidential informants

No Wyoming cases have discussed this issue.

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10. Police techniques

No Wyoming cases have discussed this issue.

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11. Mugshots

Mug shots are expressly open to public inspection.  Wyo. Stat. 7-19-106(m)(ii).

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12. Sex offender records

Generally open.  The name of the accused, the victim and information reasonably likely to identify the victim may not be released until the defandant has been bound over to district court.

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13. Emergency medical services records

Currently, emergency medical services claim that public access to their records are prohibited by HIPAA.  The claim has not yet been litigated.

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14. Police video (i.e., “body camera footage”)

P. Prison, parole and probation reports

A record must be made of probation, parole and conditional release revocation hearings under Wyo. Stat. § 7-13-408 (1977, Rev. 1992); Wyo. Stat. § 7-13-402(d) (1977 & Cum. Supp. 1996). Such records would then be subject to the Public Records Law.

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Q. Professional licensing records

The decisions by professional licensing boards are open to the public, while the underlying investigative records are not.

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R. Public utility records

Open except as otherwise provided in Title 37, Public Utilities. Wyo. Stat. § 37-2-124(1977).

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S. Real estate appraisals, negotiations

1. Appraisals

Open in regard to public entities.  The sale price of a private home contained in public records are exempt from disclosure.

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2. Negotiations

Open unless disclosure would reasonably increase the price to be paid by the public entity.

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3. Transactions

Open in regard to public entities.

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4. Deeds, liens, foreclosures, title history

Open.

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5. Zoning records

Open.

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T. School and university records

These records are generally open unless they are expressly made confidential by state or federal law.

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1. Athletic records

Open unless they would constitute an education record on a student.

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2. Trustee records

Open to inspection.

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3. Student records

Not subject to disclosure.

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4. Other

U. State guard records

V. Tax records

W. Vital Statistics

1. Birth certificates

Closed.

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2. Marriage and divorce

Open except for financial affidavits filed with a court.

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3. Death certificates

Open.

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4. Infectious disease and health epidemics

Closed to the extent they reveal personally identifiable medical data on individuals.

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IV. Procedure for obtaining records

A. How to start

The Public Records Act is silent as to the procedure for obtaining records.  The statute does mention an “application,” but does not define what is meant by that term. Written requests are necessary when the requester has been denied access to the records. A custodian must cite the reasons and the legal authority for denying access to records or information if requested to do so in writing. The official custodian of any public record may make rules and regulations regarding the inspection of the records. If the custodian feels that substantial injury to the public interest would result from disclosure of the record, he may apply to the district court where the record is located for an order permitting him to restrict disclosure. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(g) (1977, Rev. 1991 & Cum. Supp. 1996). See Foreword; Sheridan Newspapers, supra, at 798.

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1. Who receives a request?

The custodian of any public record. Wyo. Stat. § § 16-4-202, 203(1977).

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2. Does the law cover oral requests?

Yes.

All public records are open for inspection at "reasonable times." The requester need not make arrangements beforehand. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-202(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).

The party denied access may request a written statement of the grounds for the denial. The statement must cite the relevant law or regulation under which access is denied. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(e) (1977, Rev. 1991).

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3. Contents of a written request

The party denied access may request a written statement of the grounds for the denial. The statement must cite the relevant law or regulation under which access is denied. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(e) (1977, Rev. 1991).

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B. How long to wait

The law requires an immediate response if the records are available immediately.  If the records are in active use or in storage, then the custodian must respond within seven business days. If a requester believes the delay is without good cause, he or she can appeal to the district court, where the custodian has the burden of proving he or she has good cause for the delay.

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1. Statutory, regulatory or court-set time limits for agency response

2. Informal telephone inquiry as to status

3. Is delay recognized as a denial for appeal purposes?

4. Any other recourse to encourage a response

C. Administrative appeal

This is not applicable in Wyoming.

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1. Time limit

2. To whom is an appeal directed?

3. Fee issues

4. Contents of appeal letter

5. Waiting for a response

6. Subsequent remedies

D. Court action

A person denied access to records may file an action in the state district court where the records are located requesting an order directing the custodian of the record to show cause why he should not permit inspection of the record. See Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(f) (1977, Rev. 1991).

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1. Who may sue?

The person who is denied access to the record. See, e.g., Wyo. R. Civ. P. 17.

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2. Priority

The Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure are silent on the issue, though the Act calls for a “show cause” hearing, which does not require an answer by the custodian and may be set at the discretion of the court.

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3. Pro se

Any person may appear before a court, with or without representation. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-107(j) & (k) (1977, Rev. 1993). A corporation may not be represented pro se.

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4. Issues the court will address

The court will address all issues relating to the Public Records Act. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-204 (1977, Rev. 1982).

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a. Denial

b. Fees for records

c. Delays

d. Patterns for future access (declaratory judgment)

5. Pleading format

The court has directed that the format should follow the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(g) (1977, Rev. 1991); See, e.g., Wyo. R. Civ. P. Section III ("Pleadings and Motions").

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6. Time limit for filing suit

The filing requirements are governed by the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Wyo. R. Civ. P. 3 & 6.

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7. What court

A person denied access to a record may apply to the district court of the district in which the record is located. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(f) & (g) (1977, Rev. 1991 & Cum. Supp. 1996).

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8. Judicial remedies available

The exclusive remedy provided for in the Public Records Act is to apply to the district court of the district wherein the record is found for any order directing the custodian of the record to show cause why he should not permit the inspection of the record. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(f).

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9. Litigation expenses

Look to specific provisions in the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedures. Generally, courts have wide discretion in determining costs and attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court has held that the court has authority to modify attorneys' fees. State ex. rel. Wyo. Workers' Comp. Div. v. Brown, 805 P.2d 830 (Wyo. 1991). The Public Records Act has no provision for the award of attorney fees.

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a. Attorney fees

b. Court and litigation costs

10. Fines

Violation of any provision of the Public Record Act is a misdemeanor, punishable by a civil penalty not to exceed $750.00. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-205 (1977, Rev. 1995).

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11. Other penalties

None are stated in the Public Records Act.

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12. Settlement, pros and cons

Not addressed.

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E. Appealing initial court decisions

1. Appeal routes

A party appealing a decision from the district court may appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court. A party who chooses to appeal a court decision should follow the Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure.

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2. Time limits for filing appeals

A party must file a notice of appeal within 30 days from the entry of the appealable order. Wyo. R. Civ. P. 2.01.

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3. Contact of interested amici

Interested amici must first file a motion for leave with the appellate court identifying the applicant's interest and setting forth reasons why an amicus curiae brief is appropriate under the circumstances. Wyo. R. App. P. 7.12.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press often files amicus briefs in cases involving significant media law issues before a state's highest court.

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F. Addressing government suits against disclosure

As stated above, a governmental entity may seek an order from the district court authorizing the custodian to withhold a record that should otherwise be open because disclosure would cause "substantial harm" to the public interest.

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Open Meetings

I. Statute - basic application

A. Who may attend?

The Public Meeting Law generally requires that meetings of "governing bodies" be open to "the public." Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-403(a) (1977, Rev. 1995); E.G. Rudolph, Wyoming Local Government Law, § 3.1, at 103 (1985). A person or group of persons who willfully disrupt a meeting to the point orderly conduct of the meeting is unfeasible can be removed, or the meeting can be moved. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-406 (1977, Rev. 1982). The governing body shall establish procedures for readmitting "individuals not responsible for disturbing the conduct of a meeting." Id. Section 16-4-406 also states that "duly accredited members of the press or other news media except those who participated in a disturbance shall be allowed to attend any meeting permitted by this section." Id. "Duly accredited press member" is not defined. Finally, the statute states that all meetings of the governing body of an agency are open to the public at all times, "except where otherwise provided." Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-403(a) (1977, Rev. 1995). Accordingly, one must check the by-laws, rules and regulations of a particular governing body to ensure access to meetings.

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B. What governments are subject to the law?

1. State

Any "governing body" of a state agency, political subdivision or special district is covered. Wyo. Stat. § § 16-4-403 - 16-4-406 (1977, Rev. 1982); Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 73-17 (1973). "'Governing body'" means a "multimember" board, commission, committee, council or other policy or rulemaking body of an agency. Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 73-17 (1973). The legislature and the courts are expressly exempt.

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2. County

Like state government, any governing body of a county agency is covered. Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 73-17 (1973). However, county meetings are also subject to a pre-statehood law; to the extent it is not inconsistent with the Public Meetings Law. Wyo. Stat. § 18-3-506 (1977); Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-407 (1977, Rev. 1982); E.G. Rudolph, supra, at 100, 103. The older provision requires the board of county commissioners to "sit with open doors and all persons conducting themselves in an orderly manner may attend their meetings." Wyo. Stat. § 18-3-506 (1977).

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3. Local or municipal

Any governing body of a city agency is subject to the Public Meeting Law. Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 73-17 (1973). School boards are specifically required to comply by Wyo. Stat. § 21-3-110(a)(xvi)(C) (1977, Rev. 1986).

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C. What bodies are covered by the law?

1. Executive branch agencies

Any commission, board or other entity that acts as a governing body.  Governing body is not defined by the Act, but the Wyoming Supreme Court has indicated that it is any body with decision-making authority.

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a. What officials are covered?

No officials are covered unless acting as part of a "governing body." Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 73-17 (1973).

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b. Are certain executive functions covered?

Any action taken as part of a "governing body" is covered. Id.

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c. Are only certain agencies subject to the act?

The Act applies to any state agency with a multimember board or commission, including committees as specifically mentioned in the definition of an agency in the Act. If the law governing a particular agency vests the full responsibility and authority for the agency's decisions in a single individual, the Act does not apply, since such an individual is not a governing body. Id. However, some agencies headed by a single officer have "subagencies," and these agencies may have a multimember governing body, for example the State Board of Control in the State Engineer's Office. In that case, the subagency would be subject to the Public Meetings Law even though the principal agency would not. Id.

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2. Legislative bodies

The definition of agency includes all legislative bodies except the state legislature. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-402(a)(ii) (1977, Rev. 1995) This exclusion does not extend to committees composed of legislators and nonlegislators. Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 7317 (1973).

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3. Courts

The definition of "agency" expressly excludes the judiciary from this act. Wyo. Stat. § 164-402(a)(ii) (1977, Rev. 1995).

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4. Nongovernmental bodies receiving public funds or benefits

The definition of "agency" is limited to organizations "created by or pursuant to the Wyoming constitution, statute or ordinance," so nongovernmental agencies would not be included. Id.; Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 73-17 (1973).  However, no cases has been presented to the Wyoming Supreme Court in which a private entity is the "alter ego" of a governmental entity.

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5. Nongovernmental groups whose members include governmental officials

No Wyoming case has addressed this issue.

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6. Multi-state or regional bodies

If the body was created by the Wyoming constitution, statute or ordinance, and is a multimember body, the Public Meeting Law should apply. Id.

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7. Advisory boards and commissions, quasi-governmental entities

In a 2016 case, the Supreme Court ruled that a committee formed by the City of Cheyenne to recommend a final plan for employee compensation to the city council for adoption was not covered by the Public Meetings Act.  Cheyenne Newspapers v. City of Cheyenne, 2016 WY 125.  The decision found that the committee’s function was “of a special and temporary character” and that it was created via a resolution, not ordinance.  The Public Meetings Act definition of agencies governed by its provision includes “any authority, bureau, board, commission, committee, or subagency of the state, a county, a municipality or other political subdivision which is created by or pursuant to the Wyoming constitution, statue or ordinance. . .”  The Court recognized the potential for governmental entities to evade public access by forming temporary committees, and quoted from courts from other states stating that such evasion violates the Act.  It found no such evasive activity in this case.

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8. Other bodies to which governmental or public functions are delegated

See above.

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9. Appointed as well as elected bodies

Any "governing body" of an agency is subject to the act, including appointed as well as elected bodies. Wyo. Stat. § § 16-4-402 to 16-4-406 (1977, Rev. 1982); Wyo. Att'y Gen. Op. 73-17 (1973).

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D. What constitutes a meeting subject to the law

1. Number that must be present

A quorum of the governing body.

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a. Must a minimum number be present to constitute a "meeting"?

In 1995, the Wyoming Legislature clarified what constituted a meeting by writing a new definition under 16-4-402(a)(iii), which states:

"Meeting" means an assembly of at least a quorum of the governing body of an agency which has been called by proper authority of the agency for the purpose of discussion, deliberation, presentation of information or taking action regarding public business. Id.

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b. What effect does absence of a quorum have?

No "meeting" would exist under the Act. "Meeting" is defined as an assembly where "action is taken." Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-402(a)(iii). "Action" means the transaction of official business. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-402(a)(I). Official business generally cannot be carried on without a quorum, so no meeting takes place without a quorum. However, sequential communications among the members of a governing body cannot used to circumvent the requirements of the Act.  Text messages or emails are an example of sequential communications that can constitute a meeting even though a quorum is not gathered in one place.

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2. Nature of business subject to the law

In response to questions raised regarding whether information gathering sessions fell under the public meetings law in addition to sessions where decisions were made, the Legislature in 1995 redefined "meetings" as outlined above. The amendments make it clear that virtually any gathering of a quorum of a public body where business is discussed falls under the Public Meeting Law.

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a. "Information gathering" and "fact-finding" sessions

Covered.

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b. Deliberation toward decisions

Covered.

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3. Electronic meetings

Covered.

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a. Conference calls and video/Internet conferencing

b. E-mail

c. Text messages

d. Instant messaging

e. Social media and online discussion boards

E. Categories of meetings subject to the law

1. Regular meetings

a. Definition

Regular meetings may be defined by specific statutes relating to each governing body. If there is no statute, the governing body shall provide by ordinance, resolution, bylaws or rule for holding meetings. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(a) (1977, Rev. 1995). If the agency's normal business does not require regular meetings, the agency need only provide notice of its next meeting to any person who requests notice. Id. Under Deering v. Board of Directors, Fremont County Library, 954 P.2d 1359, 1363 (Wyo. 1998), the Court defined regular and special meetings as follows:

"The term regular meeting (or stated meeting) refers to the periodic business meeting of a permanent . . . board, held at weekly, monthly, quarterly, or similar intervals, for which the day (as, "the first Tuesday of each month") should be prescribed by the bylaws . . . .

Any business that falls within the objects of the society as defined in its bylaws (or, in the case of a board, any business within the authority of the board) can be transacted at any regular meeting." The Scott, Forseman Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised § 9 at 90-91 (1990 ed); and see Sturgis Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, Ch. 12 at 110 (2d ed. 1996).

In contrast,

[a] special meeting (or called meeting) is a separate session of a society held at a time different from that of any regular meeting, and convened only to consider one or more items of business specified in the call of the meeting. . . . The reason for special meetings is to deal with important matters that may arise between regular meetings and that urgently require action by the society before the next regular meeting. . . .

Robert's Rules, supra, at 91-92; Sturgis, supra, at 110.

The Court made clear that postponing a regular meeting to a time when regular meetings are not normally scheduled does not make it a special meeting.

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b. Notice

As previously noted, the governing body may provide for holding regular meetings by ordinance or resolution if no statutory provision controls. The ordinance or regulation will establish the time and place of the meetings. The ordinance or resolution must be published at the time of its adoption, but no further notice of regular meetings is required by the Public Meetings Law, except to persons who have previously requested such notice. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(a); E.G. Rudolph, supra at 100-101. This ambiguity is remedied by some of the statutes relating to specific agencies. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 21-3-110(a)(ii) (1977, Rev. 1986) (school districts required to publish notice of times and place of regular meetings twice a year).

The governing body must give at least eight hours of notice before holding a special meeting.

Notice is given to persons who have previously requested such notice, or as provided in specific statutes relating to the governing body or in the governing body's ordinances or resolutions. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(a); E.G. Rudolph, supra, at 101.  Notice of special meetings must be given to media outlets requesting such notice.

There is no posting requirement for regular meetings, unless provided in specific statutes relating to the governing body or in the governing body's ordinances or resolutions. If a meeting is recessed, a copy of the recess order must be conspicuously posted on or near the door where the meeting was held. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(c) (1977, Rev. 1982).

There is no explicit agenda requirement for regularly scheduled meetings. If, however, a meeting is recessed to another location, only agenda items may be discussed. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-406 (1977, Rev. 1982). This implies an agenda requirement, but there are no specific items required for the agenda, unless provided in statutes relating to the governing body or in the governing body's ordinances or resolutions.

Agendas must be posted for special meetings, and must be included in the notice to media outlets.  The governing body may not vary from the agenda posted for a special meeting.

Other than that for special meetings, the Public Meetings Law has no additional requirements; refer to specific statutes relating to the governing body or in the governing body's ordinances or resolutions.

In State, ex rel. Van Patten v. Ellis, 37 Wyo. 124, 259 P. 812 (1927), a school district did not follow statutory requirements for a meeting in which the board decided to pay parents for the expense of having their children attend school in another district closer to their home. The money was never paid, and the parents attempted to collect from the district. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that the district's decision was void because the meeting was not called properly. The court's holding was not based upon any specific statute, but upon the generally recognized principle that boards and similar bodies can act only at a meeting called with proper notice. E. G. Rudolph, supra, § 3.1 at 101-102. This proposition was furthered in Twichell v. Bowman, 440 P.2d 513 (Wyo. 1968). Once again, two members of a three-member school board, acting without notice to the third, made arrangements to buy out the school superintendent's contract. Notwithstanding subsequent ratification of the action at a regular meeting, the court held that the payment might be recovered by the district if it was a "willful evasion of the law, fraud, collusion, concealment, or elements which disclose violations of principles of public policy." 440 P.2d at 516, quoting from Tobin v. Town Council of Town of City of Sundance, 45 Wyo. 219, 17 P.2d 666, 678 (1933); but cf. George W. Condon Co. v. Board of County Commissioners, 56 Wyo. 38, 103 P.2d 401 (1940) (even though the contract was illegal and void, the plaintiff might be able to recover quasi-contractually for the benefit conferred). All of these cases predate the passage of the Public Meetings Law. They demonstrate, however, that where there is a legal obligation to provide notice, the court will take a hard look at the legality of the resulting decision.

The 2005 amendments adopted by the Legislature make a violation punishable by a civil penalty up to $750.  The Act does not limit who can initiate court action for a civil penalty.

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c. Minutes

The Legislature in 1995 added Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-403(c) to outline the requirements for taking minutes at meetings. The 2005 amendments require minutes of executive sessions, but they are confidential unless a court orders them disclosed to the public.

Minutes from meetings where no action is taken by the governing body are required to be recorded but not published. Minutes are not required to be recorded or published for day-to-day administrative activities of an agency. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-403(c)(i) & (ii). (1977, Rev. 1995).

Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(c) is silent as to whether minutes constitute a "public record." Generally, unless otherwise specified as privileged or confidential by law under Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-201(a)(v), minutes of a meeting would be considered public record. Refer to the Preface of this overview. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 9-2-401(a)(v) (1977, Rev. 1991). However, the 1995 amendment requiring minutes of executive sessions and making them confidential indicates that minutes of non-executive sessions are public records.

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2. Special or emergency meetings

a. Definition

Special meetings may be called by the presiding officer of the governing body at any time. No other business other than that included in the notice of a special meeting shall be considered at a special meeting. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(b) (1977, Rev. 1995).

Emergency meetings have no notice requirement and deal with matters of serious immediate concern. All action taken at an emergency meeting is considered temporary. For an action to become permanent, it must be reconsidered and acted upon at an open public meeting within forty-eight hours, thus fulfilling the notice requirements. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(d) (1977, Rev. 1995).

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b. Notice requirements

Eight-hours’ notice must be given to media requesting such notice.

Emergency meetings may be held without notice. The presiding officer of the governing body is only required to use "reasonable effort" to offer public notice. Also, there are no notice requirements for day-to-day administrative activities of an agency. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(e) (1977, Rev. 1995); E.G. Rudolph, Wyoming Local Government Law § 3.1 at 101 (1985). If the agency's normal business does not require regular meetings, the agency must provide notice of its next meeting to any person who requests notice. A person may request notice for all future meetings of an agency. In the absence of a statutory requirement, the governing body of an agency shall provide by ordinance, resolution, bylaws or rule for holding regular meetings. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(a) (1977, Rev. 1995). The Wyoming Supreme Court has interpreted notice requirements for special meetings fairly rigidly. Palmer v. Crook County School Dist. 1, 785 P.2d 1160 (Wyo. 1990) (if the agency has met the requisite record and notice requirements set forth by law and the purpose of the meeting is clear, procedural due process rights will be considered adequate).

When a special meeting is called, eight-hours’ notice must be given to each member of the governing body and to each newspaper of general circulation, radio or television station requesting notice. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(b) (1977, Rev. 1995).

When a special meeting is called, the notice shall specify the time and place of the meeting and the business to be transacted. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-404(b) (1977, Rev. 1995).

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c. Minutes

There is no variation in the statutory requirements for minutes of special or emergency meetings. See Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-403(c).

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3. Closed meetings or executive sessions

a. Definition

Wyo. Stat. 16-4-405(a) exempts a governing body from open public meeting requirements under certain circumstances, notwithstanding the Public Meetings Law requirement that all meetings be open to the public. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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b. Notice requirements

There are no specific notice requirements for executive sessions. The governing body may provide for holding executive sessions by ordinance or resolution if no statutory provision controls. The ordinance or regulation will establish procedures for executive sessions.  The governing body must vote to go into executive session.

There is no time limit in the Public Meetings Law. Specific statutes relating to the governing body, or in the governing body's ordinances or resolutions may provide time limits. See e.g., Rudolph, supra, at 101.

The Act does not specify to whom notice must be given.

As noted, there is no posting requirement for regular meetings, unless provided in specific statutes relating to the governing body or the governing body's ordinances or resolutions.

There is no explicit agenda requirement. See, e.g., Wyo Stat. § 16-4-406(c) (1977, Rev. 1995).

The Public Meetings Law imposes no additional requirements for executive sessions. Refer to specific statutes relating to the governing body or the governing body's ordinances or resolutions. Knowingly and willfully violating the Act by holding an illegal executive session is punishable as a misdemeanor. An illegal executive session may render any action by the governing body "null and void."

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c. Minutes

Minutes must be taken of executive sessions, but they are confidential unless ordered disclosed by a court. No specifications as to the content of the minutes are set forth in the Act.

No unless ordered by a court, or to publicize a member's objection to an executive session as not being authorized by the statute. See Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(b).

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d. Requirement to meet in public before closing meeting

The Public Meetings Act requires a majority vote to go into executive session. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(c). All actions must be taken in open, public session. A separate statute requires city and town councils to approve an executive session by a two-thirds vote.

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e. Requirement to state statutory authority for closing meetings before closure

The Public Meetings Law requires governing bodies to cite statutory authority and the reasons for the closure.  Members of a governing body would have to know the purpose of the session in order to know how to vote on whether to go into executive session.

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f. Tape recording requirements

No statute specifically addresses tape recording at closed meetings or executive sessions.

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F. Recording/broadcast of meetings

1. Sound recordings allowed

The requirement that minutes be taken at a meeting merely states that minutes must be "recorded"; the statute is silent as to the method of recording. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-403(c). In the absence of any contradicting law or holding Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-201(a)(v) includes a sound recording in the definition of "public record." A state district court judge has allowed a videotape recording of a school board meeting as long as the meeting was not disrupted.

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2. Photographic recordings allowed

A district judge allowed videotaping of a school board meeting, but the Supreme Court has not considered the issue.  Videotaping of public meeting is generally allowed in the state.

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G. Access to meeting materials, reports and agendas

H. Are there sanctions for noncompliance?

A willful and knowing violation of the Act may be punished by a civil penalty.

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A. Exemptions in the open meetings statute

1. Character of exemptions

A governing body of an agency may hold executive sessions not open to the public under certain circumstances set forth below.

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2. Description of each exemption

Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405 sets forth eleven instances where a governing body may close a meeting. That provision states:

“(a) A governing body of an agency may hold executive sessions not open to the public:

(i) With the attorney general, county attorney, district attorney, city attorney, sheriff, chief of police or their respective deputies, or other officers of the law, on matters posing a threat to the security of public or private property, or a threat to the public's right of access;

(ii) To consider the appointment, employment, right to practice or dismissal of a public officer, professional person or employee, or to hear complaints or charges brought against an employee, professional person or officer, unless the employee, professional person or officer requests a public hearing. The governing body may exclude from any public or private hearing during the examination of a witness, any or all other witnesses in the matter being investigated. Following the hearing or executive session, the governing body may deliberate on its decision in executive sessions;

(iii) On matters concerning litigation to which the governing body is a party or proposed litigation to which the governing body may be a party;

(iv) On matters of national security;

(v) When the agency is a licensing agency while preparing, administering or grading examinations;

(vi) When considering and acting upon the determination of the term, parole or release of an individual from a correctional or penal institution;

(vii) To consider the selection of a site or the purchase of real estate when the publicity regarding the consideration would cause a likelihood of an increase in price;

(viii) To consider acceptance of gifts, donations and bequests which the donor has requested in writing be kept confidential;

(ix) To consider or receive any information classified as confidential by law;

(x) To consider accepting or tendering offers concerning wages, salaries, benefits and terms of employment during all negotiations;

(xi) To consider suspensions, expulsions or other disciplinary action in connection with any student as provided by law.”

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B. Any other statutory requirements for closed or open meetings

None.

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C. Court mandated opening, closing

The Public Meetings Law does not address this issue.

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III. Meeting categories - open or closed

A. Adjudications by administrative bodies

The Wyoming Supreme Court in Cheyenne Newspapers v. City of Cheyenne Building Code Board of Appeals, 2010 WY 2, ruled that agencies acting a quasi-judicial capacity must adhere to the Public Meetings Act.  These agencies must conduct their deliberations in public.  The Court also rejected the argument by the board that it was not a "governing body of an agency" because it was not the ultimate decision-making body of the agency, such as the city council or county commission.  The ruling also affirmed the standing of the public, and the media as its representative, to contest violations of the open meetings and open records acts.

In 2011, the Wyoming Supreme Court explained the process by which a governmental entity may cure a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Gronberg v. Teton County Housing Authority, 247 P.3d 35, 2011 WY 13.  Any action taken at a meeting not in compliance with the act is null and void.  The Court ruled that the "Act would permit ratification of a prior “void” action, if the ratification is done in compliance with the Act. We hold that an agency may “cure” a “void” action made in violation of the Public Meetings Act by conducting a new and substantial reconsideration of the action in a manner which complies with the Act."  The reconsideration must be one "in which the public is afforded ample opportunity to know the facts and to be heard with reference to the matters at issue."

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1. Deliberations closed, but not fact-finding

Deliberations are open unless they would meet one of the exemptions allowing for executive sessions.

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2. Only certain adjudications closed, i.e. under certain statutes

Governing bodies may deliberative in private after a hearing on a complaint against an employee or public officer.

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B. Budget sessions

A municipality must give notice by publishing a summary of the tentative budget at least one week before the hearing date in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality, or otherwise post the notice in three conspicuous places within the municipality. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-109 (1977, Rev. 1995 & Cum. Supp. 1996). Financial statements and reports of financial position, operating results and other pertinent information must be available for public inspection during regular business hours. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-119 (1977, Rev. 1982).

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C. Business and industry relations

There is no provision that deals directly with this. Refer to specific statutes relating to the governing body or the governing body's ordinances or resolutions.

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D. Federal programs

Check the pertinent federal and state statutory requirements for specific programs.

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E. Financial data of public bodies

There is no statute that deals directly with financial data of public bodies at public meetings. The 1989 legislature amended the Public Records Act to make employment contracts of public officials and employees available for public inspection and to remove them from the exception provided for personnel files. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(iii), as amended by Session Laws, 1989, Chapter 10 (1977 & Cum. Supp. 1996).

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F. Financial data, trade secrets, or proprietary data of private corporations and individuals

There is no provision that deals directly with financial data of public bodies at public meetings. See Preface. Regarding public records, the custodian may deny inspection records containing trade secrets unless otherwise provided by law. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(v) (1977, Rev. 1991).

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G. Gifts, trusts and honorary degrees

A governing body may meet in executive sessions to accept an anonymous gift.

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H. Grand jury testimony by public employees

There is no statute specifically addressing the testimony of public employees in a grand jury proceeding. The Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that, in a county grand jury proceeding, only the Attorney for the State may disclose matters occurring before the grand jury. Wyo. R. Crim. P. 6(a)(14). In a state grand jury proceeding, no obligation of secrecy may be imposed upon any person except the Attorney General, District Attorney, law enforcement agencies, a juror, attorney, interpreter, stenographer, operator of a recording device or transcribing typist. Wyo. R. Crim. P. 6(b)(8)(D).

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I. Licensing examinations

When the agency is a licensing agency, the governing body may close sessions while preparing, administering or grading examinations. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(v) (1977, Rev. 1982); See also, Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-113 (1977, Rev. 1993 & Cum. Supp. 1996).

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J. Litigation, pending litigation or other attorney-client privileges

A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive sessions on "matters concerning litigation to which the governing body is a party or proposed litigation to which the governing body may be a party." Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(iii) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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K. Negotiations and collective bargaining of public employees

1. Any sessions regarding collective bargaining

A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive sessions to consider accepting or tendering offers concerning wages, salaries, benefits and terms of employment during all negotiations. The statute otherwise does not directly address collective bargaining. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(x) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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2. Only those between the public employees and the public body

L. Parole board meetings, or meetings involving parole board decisions

A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive session when considering and acting upon the term, parole, or release of an individual from a correctional or penal institution. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(vi) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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M. Patients, discussions on individual patients

A custodian may deny access to an individual's hospital or medical records. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(vii) (1977, Rev. 1991). Houghton v. Franscell, 870 P.2d 1050 (Wyo. 1994). It is also a misdemeanor to disclose the contents of an individual's application as a qualified recipient of medical assistance unless the information is released related to medical assistance payment. The applicant or recipient may sign a waiver authorizing the release of such information. Wyo. Stat. § 42-4-112 (1977, Rev. 1995).

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N. Personnel matters

1. Interviews for public employment

A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive sessions when considering charges against or the employment of a public officer or employee, or their right to employment or to practice their profession. The public employee or officer may request that the meeting be open to the public. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(ii) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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2. Disciplinary matters, performance or ethics of public employees

There is no provision other than the general exemption for discussing the employment of a public officer or employee. As noted, the 1989 legislature amended the statute to make employment contracts of public officials and employees available for public inspection and to remove them from the exception provided for personnel files. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(iii), as amended by Session Laws, 1989, Chapter 10. See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(ii) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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3. Dismissal, considering dismissal of public employees

See, e.g., Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(ii) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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O. Real estate negotiations

A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive sessions regarding real estate purchases if the governing body determines that publicity might cause a price increase of the real estate in question. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(vii) (1977, Rev. 1982). In 2015, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that an executive session held by a school regarding the potential for building a community recreation center at the local high school did not fall within provision allowing for executive sessions when discussing purchase of real estate or the selection of a site for a government facility when disclosure would likely cause an increase in price.  Sheridan Newspapers, Inc. V. Sheridan County School District #2, 2015 Wy 70.  The Court ordered executive session minutes from the improper meetings released. The court also required requiring governmental entities to follow W.R.C.P. 26(b)(5) when asserting a privilege by describing the nature of the privileged communication that, without revealing the privileged information, will enable the other party to assess the applicability of the privilege.  It also ruled that the “deliberative process privilege” adopted pursuant to the Wyoming Public Records Act did not apply to the Public Meetings Act.

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P. Security, national and/or state, of buildings, personnel or other

A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive sessions on matters of national security, or issues threatening the security of public or private property. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(I) & (iv) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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Q. Students, discussions on individual students

A governing body of an agency may hold closed executive sessions on issues of student conduct. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-405(a)(xi) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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IV. Procedure for asserting right of access

A. When to challenge

There is no procedure set forth in the Public Meetings Act for asserting a right of access. Refer to the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure.  However, Wyoming courts have accepted petitions from citizens and media outlets for declaratory judgments regarding violations of the Public Meetings Act and whether actions at meetings in violation of the Act are null and void.

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1. Does the law provide expedited procedure for reviewing request to attend upcoming meetings?

No.

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2. When barred from attending

It is not clear that a citizen must have been personally barred from attending to have standing to challenge an illegally closed or unnoticed meeting.

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3. To set aside decision

The Act states that decisions made at meetings not in conformity with the Act are null and void.

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4. For ruling on future meetings

There is no provision that directly addresses this issue, but the Wyoming Supreme Court has indicated that injunctive relief is appropriate to bar forestall violations of the Act.

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5. Other

B. How to start

1. Where to ask for ruling

The Public Meetings Act does not set forth procedural requirements for right of access. Venue calls for the court in the county in which the meeting took place is the proper place to seek relief from the courts.

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a. Administrative forum

Not applicable in Wyoming.

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b. State attorney general

Certain public officials and entities may seek opinions from the Attorney General, but not members of the general public.

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1. Applicable time limits

2. Contents of request

3. How long should you wait for a response?

c. Court

Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203 directs a person denied access to records to apply to the district court of the district where the record is found. Presumably, one seeking access would apply to the district court of the district where the meeting took place.

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2. Applicable time limits

None stated.

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3. Contents of request for ruling

The Public Meetings Act has no procedural requirements for right of access.

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4. How long should you wait for a response

The Public Meetings Act does not impose a response time.

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5. Are subsequent or concurrent measures (formal or informal) available?

None stated.

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C. Court review of administrative decision

Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(b) gives the Supreme Court the authority to determine the content of the record upon review, the pleadings to be filed, the time and manner for filing pleadings, records and other documents and the extent to which supplemental testimony and evidence may be taken or considered by the district court. Such rules would supersede existing statutory provisions.

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1. Who may sue?

"Any aggrieved or adversely affected in fact by a final decision of any agency." One must exhaust all administrative remedies before seeking judicial review. Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).  In Cheyenne Newspapers v. City of Cheyenne Building Code Board of Appeals, the Court affirmed the right of the public and the media as its representative as having standing to contest violations of the Act.

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2. Will the court give priority to the pleading?

The statute is silent on the issue. Courts have, however, always been quite liberal regarding the matter of pleadings in proceedings before administrative agencies. Glenn v. Board of County Comm'rs, 440 P.2d 1 (Wyo. 1968). But see Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(b). The Supreme Court has the authority to determine the content of the record upon review, pleadings to be filed, the time and manner for filing pleadings, records and other documents and the extent to which supplemental testimony and evidence may be taken or considered by the district court. Such rules would supersede existing statutory provisions.

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3. Pro se possibility, advisability

Individuals may appear pro se, but not corporations.  Experiences of those contesting violations of the Act pro se has not been positive.

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4. What issues will the court address?

Declaration actions as to requirements of the Act and whether any action should be found to be null and void.

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a. Open the meeting

Citizens may seek injunctive relief to prevent a body from meeting in secret.  See concurrence of Justice Marilyn Kite in Cheyenne Newspapers v. City of Cheyenne Building Code Board of Appeals.

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b. Invalidate the decision

A possible remedy is an order finding any decision linked to the illegal closed session to be null and void. The agency may cure the violation by providing a new and substantial reconsideration of the action in open session.

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c. Order future meetings open

Citizens may seek injunctive relief to prevent a body from meeting in secret.  See concurrence of Justice Marilyn Kite in Cheyenne Newspapers v. City of Cheyenne Building Code Board of Appeals, see Foreword.

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5. Pleading format

Pleading follows the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure. Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(a) (1977, Rev. 1982). But see Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(b). The Supreme Court has the authority to determine the content of the record upon review, pleadings to be filed, the time and manner for filing pleadings, records and other documents and the extent to which supplemental testimony and evidence may be taken or considered by the district court. Such rules would supersede existing statutory provisions.

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6. Time limit for filing suit

None cited in the Act or by case law.

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7. What court

The person seeking judicial review must sue in the district court for the county in which administrative action or inaction was taken. Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).

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8. Judicial remedies available

Decisions can be declared "null and void" under Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-403. Injunctive relief to prevent future violations.

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9. Availability of court costs and attorney's fees

There are no provisions for the award of attorney fees and costs.

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10. Fines

A willful and knowing violation of the Act is punishable by a civil penalty of not more than $750.

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11. Other penalties

None stated.

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D. Appealing initial court decisions

1. Appeal routes

A party who chooses to appeal a court decision should follow the Wyoming Rules of Appellate Procedure.

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2. Time limits for filing appeals

A party must file a notice of appeal within 30 days from the entry of the appealable order. Wyo. R. Civ. P. 2.01.

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3. Contact of interested amici

Interest amici must first file a motion for leave with the appellate court identifying the applicant's interest and setting forth reasons why an amicus curiae brief is appropriate under the circumstances. Wyo. R. App. P. 7.12.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press often files amicus briefs in cases involving significant media law issues before a state's highest court.

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V. Asserting a right to comment

The Wyoming Public Meetings Act does not touch on a right to comment at a public meeting except at Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-406. That statute allows a governing body to prevent willful disruption of a meeting that prevents the orderly conduct of the meeting by removal of the offending parties or recess of the meeting.

While there is no law governing this issue, most if not all entities provide for public comment during their meetings.

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A. Is there a right to participate in public meetings?

The Public Meetings Act is silent as to this issue. Wyoming has no case law regarding whether public meetings are public forums in which the right to speak may not be abridged based upon the content of the speech or the viewpoint of the speaker.

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B. Must a commenter give notice of intentions to comment?

No, but the commenter may be required to provide his/her name.

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C. Can a public body limit comment?

D. How can a participant assert rights to comment?

E. Are there sanctions for unapproved comment?

Appendix