J.B. VAN HOLLEN
Raymond P. Taffora
Deputy Attorney General
114 East, State Capitol
P.O. Box 7857
Madison, WI 53707-7857
February 14, 2008 OAG—2—08
912 - 56th Street
Kenosha, WI 53140-3747
BodyStart In your revised letter dated October 18, 2007, you request an opinion concerning four questions:
1. Must the county designate an official newspaper?
In my opinion, the answer is no.
2. Must the county seek bids for the publication of legal notices and if so must the award go to the lowest bidder?
In my opinion, a county is not statutorily required to seek bids for the publication of legal notices.
3. In lieu of bidding the publication of its own proceedings [as provided in Wis. Stat. § 59.14(3)], may the county print its own proceedings or in the alternative post them to its official web site? In my opinion, even if a county does not competitively bid the publication of its own proceedings as provided in Wis. Stat. § 59.14(3), it may print its own proceedings or post them on its web site.
4. In lieu of publication in a printed newspaper or posting on a physical bulletin board, may the county post its legal notices on its official web site?
In my opinion, the answer is no because placing a legal notice on the county’s web site is not newspaper publication, is not another form of publication, and does not constitute posting in a public place.
Wisconsin Stat. § 59.14 provides: Publication of ordinances and proceedings. (1) Whenever a board enacts an ordinance under this chapter the clerk shall immediately publish it as a class 1 notice, under ch. 985; and the clerk shall procure and distribute copies of the ordinance to the several town clerks, who shall file it in their respective offices. (2) The board shall, by ordinance or resolution, provide for publication in one or more newspapers in the county as a class 1 notice, under ch. 985, a certified copy of all its proceedings had at any meeting, regular or special; said publication to be completed within 60 days after the adjournment of each session.
(3) The board may at any meeting, regular or special, provide by resolution for the publication in pamphlet form by the lowest and best bidder therefor, of a sufficient and designated number of copies of its duly certified proceedings, for general distribution.
(4) The board may order public notices relating to tax redemption and other affairs of the county to be published in a newspaper printed in any other than the English language, to be designated in such order, whenever the board considers it necessary for the better information of the inhabitants of the county, and it shall appear from the last previous census that one-fourth or more of the adult population of the county is of a nationality not speaking the English language, and that there shall have been a newspaper published in the county continuously for one year or more in the language spoken by that nationality; but all of the notices shall also be published in a newspaper published in the English language as provided by law. The compensation for all of the publications shall be paid by the county ordering the publications, and shall be the same as that prescribed by law for publication in the English language; and no extra charge shall be allowed for translation in any case. No irregularity, mistake or informality in any such publication shall affect the validity or regularity of any tax redemptions or other legal proceedings.
Wisconsin Stat. § 985.01 provides in part:
Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:
. . . .
(2) “Legal notice” means every notice required by law or by order of a court to be published in a newspaper or other publication . . . .
. . . .
(5) A newspaper is “published” at the place from which its mailing permit is issued, except that if the place where the newspaper has its major concentration of circulation has no primary post office, then at the place it shall designate as its place of publication in the affidavit required by s. 985.03(2), but no newspaper shall have more than one place of publication during the same period of time.