Wisconsin county passes scaled-back version of resolution that threatened to prosecute journalists

Wisconsin county passes scaled-back version of resolution that threatened to prosecute journalists

A county in Wisconsin passed a revamped version of a resolution Tuesday that initially called for prosecuting the media if it were to selectively report water testing results "for their own means.“

The Lafayette County resolution passed through the Land Conservation Committee on a 5-2 vote Tuesday after some of the strongest language calling for punishment for journalists was removed, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

ADVERTISEMENT

The passed resolution warns county board members and other public officials of unspecified "discipline" for going outside a predetermined process for releasing information from an upcoming groundwater report.

The study is looking into well water contamination in three Wisconsin counties. Initial results released in August found 32 of 35 wells tested in the area contained human or livestock fecal matter.

County officials were reportedly unhappy with how they felt the news media portrayed the initial findings.

County Board chairman Jack Sauer pointed to a previous report that found 42 percent of 301 randomly selected private wells in the three counties exceeded federal health standards for bacteria that can come from animal or human waste, or from toxic fertilizer residue. 

County Board member Kriss Marion, who voted against the initial resolution that called for punishing journalists, said there was "sloppy reporting" and "sloppy reading" in the way the results were portrayed, but the resolution was not warranted.

"Mistakes happen. We need to move forward. We don't become a totalitarian regime because of one bad story in the press," she said, according to the news outlet.

It was unclear which committee members wrote the original version of the resolution that called for prosecuting journalists.

The full county board is set to take up the scaled-back resolution in a vote Tuesday night.