Publications FAQ 8

What publication requirements are there for common council and village board proceedings?

Common Council Proceedings
The city clerk must keep a record of the council proceedings and the proceedings must be published in the official newspaper as a class 1 notice (one insertion). Wis. Stat. secs. 62.09(11)(b) and 62.11(4)(a). The proceedings must include the substance of every official action taken by the governing body at both open and closed sessions. Wis. Stat. sec. 62.11(4)(a). "Substance" is defined as a synopsis of the essential elements of the action taken, including the subject matter of a motion, who made and seconded the motion and the results of votes, including an indication of how members voted on roll call votes. Ordinances and resolutions published as required by law, however, need not be reproduced in the minutes, as long as the minutes include a reference to their subject matter. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.01(6).

Village Board Proceedings
Villages must publish or post the proceedings of the village board. For purposes of publication or posting, “proceedings” must include the substance of every official action taken by the governing body at both open and closed sessions. Wis. Stat. secs. 61.32 and 61.25(3). The proceedings should include the name of persons who make and second motions, and the results of votes, including an indication of how members voted on roll call votes. If the village has an official newspaper, then the proceedings must be published in that paper. Wis. Stat. sec. 985.05(2). If the village does not have an official newspaper but there is a qualifying newspaper published in the village, the proceedings must be published in the newspaper as a class 1 notice (one insertion). Wis. Stat. secs. 61.32 and 985.05(1). If there is no qualifying paper published in the village, then the board must direct that the proceedings either be published in a newspaper having general circulation in the village, posted in several places "or publicized in some other fashion." Wis. Stat. sec. 61.32.

The question arises of whether the authority to publish village board proceedings in a manner other than newspaper publication or posting would allow publication of the proceedings in a shopper or other publication not qualifying as a newspaper under sec. 985.03. In a past opinion, we concluded that this is an acceptable form of publication of village board proceedings as long as the shopper is not a qualifying newspaper under ch. 985.  League Opinion Publication 114. That opinion reasoned that a shopper not publishing regularly and at least weekly or not containing news was not a "newspaper" within the definition in sec. 985.03(1)(c), Stats. Thus, the prohibition on publication in a newspaper other than an eligible newspaper is inapplicable and publication in a shopper is permitted. I also advised that posting be used too since it is a simple, low cost method of publication.

The attorney general addressed this question with regard to publication of school board proceedings and concluded that shopper publication is a legal alternative.  75 OAG 269 (1986). However, for school board proceedings, sec. 985.05(3) fairly clearly allows a school board to publish those notices without worrying about the constraints of ch. 985.