News outlets sue Wisconsin governor over lack of response to email requests
Isthmus, an alternative newsweekly in Madison, WI, announced on Friday that it has filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker under that state’s Open Records Law.
On February 17, Walker claimed to have received more than 8000 emails on his budget repair bill, with the majority urging him to “stay firm.” The next day, he upped the figure to 19,000. Isthmus presented Walker with a request to see those emails, first by hand-delivered letter and the next week by emails to Walker’s spokesperson and his legal counsel.
The Wisconsin Associated Press, which is also participating in the lawsuit, filed similar requests at about the same time. Its second email broadened the request to include “all emails the governor has received that mention the budget repair bill.”
Wisconsin’s Open Records Law requires prompt responses to such requests, but according to Isthmus, “As of today, the governor’s office and his legal counsel have not responded to these requests for records, or provided information on their status.”
A story at the Wisconsin State Journal reports that “[AP reporter Todd] Richmond received an e-mail response late Friday, which was dated Feb. 25, from Nate Ristow, associate legal counsel for the governor, in which Ristow detailed the cost of printing out the e-mails of more than $31,250, to be paid in advance. Ristow also invited Richmond to review the records at Walker’s office for no charge.”
The Journal notes that “in his records request, Lueders had asked that the e-mails be put on a disk instead of being printed on paper.”
Isthmus has been a fierce critic of Walker over the past several weeks. A February 11 article, titled “Walker preserves the Wisconsin police state,” accused him of “political cowardice” for exempting police and firefighters from his “assault on public workers.”
An article this Thursday, titled “Many of Scott Walker’s claims have been proven untrue, at times by Walker himself,” attacked Walker’s claims that he he had been elected on a platform of stripping public workers of collective bargaining rights and that the concessions he is demanding now are “modest, modest requests.”
“We deeply regret the need to take this action to compel the governor and his office to comply with the law,” Isthmus editor Bill Lueders stated. “As governor-elect, Scott Walker promised to be responsive to open records requests and to make his administration a model of transparency. We thought then and still think that would be a good idea.”