‘The absurdity is stunning’: Chief of Wisconsin GOP's election review blasted for effort to arrest mayor of Madison
Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman in a video promoting the partisan review of the 2020 election. (YouTube | Office of the Special Counsel)

Madison City Attorney Michael Haas, in a letter on Thursday to Waukesha County Judge Ralph Ramirez, responded to Michael Gableman’s attempt to arrest Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway as part of his partisan review of the 2020 presidential election.

Haas said Gableman’s effort to arrest Rhodes-Conway and Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich was “unprofessional, an abuse of process, and a bad-faith effort to publicly harass local officials with no legal basis.”

Gableman, who is reviewing the election on behalf of Speaker Robin Vos and other Assembly Republicans, has filed a petition in Waukesha County Circuit Court that would enable Ramirez to have the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office travel to Madison and Green Bay, arrest the mayors and detain them in the county jail in order to force them to testify about the election.

The former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice has had a lengthy back and forth with a number of cities and state agencies over his assertion that he has the ability to enforce subpoenas against officials. Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul is currently fighting a lawsuit against Gableman over his ability to subpoena Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe. City officials in Madison and Green Bay had worked with Gableman’s office to provide an extensive amount of election-related documents he requested through a subpoena and believed that his request to have the mayors testify was no longer valid.

Throughout the Gableman review, local officials have complained about a lack of communication from Gableman’s office and his highly paid staff.

City officials have said they’d be happy to testify before Gableman, but would only do so in a public setting such as before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections — which is nominally the body overseeing the review. Gableman has said he wants to hear testimony in private, but lawyers for the cities say he doesn’t have the legal ability to do so.

In his letter, Haas highlights a number of ways in which communication with Gableman and his staff has been confusing, contradictory or nonexistent.

“First, Mayor Rhodes-Conway and the City of Madison have attempted to engage in professional and open communication with Attorney Gableman, which has not been reciprocated,” Haas wrote. “The Mayor remains willing to testify in public before the legislative committee which issued the subpoena to discuss the conduct of the election in Madison, all of which is public information. Attorney Gableman has not offered any specific time, forum or format for a deposition.”

Haas, like Genrich’s attorney, said that Gableman had completely mischaracterized the facts in his petition to the judge and that the move was almost comical.

“Given these facts, this action is frivolous and the absurdity of the Special Counsel’s assertion regarding the Mayor’s compliance with the subpoena is stunning,” Haas wrote.

The lawsuit over the testimony of WEC Administrator Wolfe involves many of the same issues and is pending in Dane County Circuit Court. Both Rhodes-Conway’s and Genrich’s lawyers have requested that Gableman’s petition be dismissed or for the matter to be settled after the Dane County case is resolved.

A scheduling conference in the mayor case is set to be held Friday afternoon and a hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22.

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