Archive for October, 2013

New Exceptions to Release of Utility Customer Information

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Back in July of, 2013, Governor Walker signed 2013 Act 25, creating a new exception to the public records law.  Act 25 prohibits the release of customer information (which is specifically defined in the law) by a municipal utility unless the customer consents to the release of the information, or if another exception applies.

As is sometimes the case, there were unintended consequences which created some unwelcome roadblocks to real estate transactions, among others.  Governor Walker recently signed a new law, Act 47, which creates four additional exceptions to the prohibition on releasing customer information.  A municipal utility may now release information in the following situations:

  1. To a title agent, insurer, lender, mortgage broker, or attorney in connection with the preparation of real estate closing documents.
  2. To a lender or prospective purchaser in connection with the foreclosure of real property.
  3. To an owner of real property provided with municipal utility service or the owner’s designated agent.
  4. To comply with security disclosure obligations.

Annexation Challenge Denied for Lack of Standing

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

In a case recommended for publication, the Darboy Joint Sanitary District No.1 and the Town of Harrison challenged the City of Kaukauna’s annexation of some land located with the Town and the Sanitary District.  This was a unanimous direct annexation – basically that means that all of the property owners and residents within the land favored the annexation.  The Town disfavored the annexation, and passed a resolution to that effect.

The Court did not discuss the merits of the case – the sole issue was “standing.”  In our court system, standing asks the question “who are you to bring this lawsuit?”  Our laws generally do not permit a person to bring a lawsuit unless they have some pretty direct connection to the issues.  In addition, towns in Wisconsin are statutorily blocked from challenging direct unanimous annexations.  Thus the court dismissed the Town’s action for lack of standing on statutory grounds, and dismissed the Sanitary District’s action for lack of an interest in the matter.

Although this was not the Court’s holding, the unwritten bottom line appears to be that if a unanimous group of property owners and residents want to be annexed and the city or village is in favor of it, with only limited exceptions, it’s probably going to happen.