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DOJ Scolds Walker

DOJ Scolds Walker

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Published by: Cory Liebmann on Dec 31, 2010
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STATEOFWISCONSIN DEPARTMENTOF
JUSTIL"E
PEGGYA.LAlJTrr.NSCHLAGf~R ATTORNEYGENERAL17W.MainStreet P.O.Box7857
Madison,WI
53707-7857 www.doj.state.wi.ns anielP.Bach
'l)cputyAttorney
Gen~ral
M'onie:!
Buo'kert-Brist AssistantAttorneyGeneral bu.-!rertbristm@doj.state.wi.us 608/266-1795. TIY1-800-947-3529'
FA"X
608/267-2778
November10,2005 MeScottWalkerMilwaukeeCountyExecutive 901North9thStreet Courthouse,Room306 Milwaukee,WI53233~1458
Mr.
David
R
RiemerDearCountyExecutiveWalkerandMr.Riemer: Asyouarebothaware,ourofficehasdevotedsubstantialtimeandresourcesinvestigatinga complaint
from
Mr.RiemerregardingallegedviolationsoftheWisconsinpublic
recordslaw
by
Mr.Walker,hisstaffand
appointees,and/orothercountyemployees
duringtheApril2004spring electioncampaignforcountyexecutive.ThecomplaintwasreferredtoourofficebyCorporation CounselWilliam.
J.
Domina,whoreceivedthecomplaint.fromDistrictAttomey E.MichaelMcCann.Inadditiontoreviewingrecordsprovided
by
eachofyouand/oryouroffices, specialagentsoftheDivisionofCrimina]Investigation(DCI)oftheDepartmentofJustice
conductednumerousinterviewsofpeoplewith
informationabout
the
handlingoftherecords
requestatissue.Thisletter
providesyouwithasummaryofourinvestigativefindingsandlegal conclusions. Ourinvestigationdisclosedatroublingcourseofconductbycountyemployees,although
it
isarguablewhetherthefacts
WOUld
supportafindingthatthepublicrecordslawwasviolated. Moreover,duetovariousinterveningeventsdescribedbelow,apublicrecordsprosecutionunder Wis.
Stat§
19.37wouldnotprovideameaningfulremedy.Totheextenttheapplicabilityofthe statutetothisunusualfactscenariorequiresclarification,alegislativeamendmentratherthan
judicia!
interpretationwouldseemappropriate.
 
Mr.ScottWalkerMr.DavidR.
Riemer
Noverriber
10;2005
Page
2
SummaryofInvestigativeFindings
Ourinvestigationconsistedofareviewofdocumentsprovidedbybothofyouandyour staff,interviewswithindividualsfrom
Iv11-.
Riemer'scampaignstaffwhomadetherequest,aswell
as
individualsemployedbythecountywhowereresponsibleforrespondingtotherequestIn addition,ouragentsinterviewed.Mr.Domina,Mr.StfveMokrohisky,executiveassistanttoCounty ExecutiveWalkerandCountyExecutiveWalker.Asaresult,wehavereachedthefollowing
I.
conclusionsaboutthechainofeventsinvolvingthisrequest.Mr.Riemer'scampaign,through
Mr.
WilliamChristofferson,madeapublicrecordsrequest onFebruary17,2004,totheattentionofMr.MatthewM.Janes,whoworksintheEmployee BenefitsDivisionoftheCounty'sDepartmentofHumanResources.Mr.Janes
is
designatedrecordscustodianforbenefitsrecords.TIlerequestspecificallyaskedfor"copiesofallpension waiverssigned
by
county
employeesandelectedofficialssinceJanuary
1,
2002."Therequestdid notspecifyanenddatefortherecords,therebyimplyingtherequestwasfromJanuary
1,
2002throughthepresenttime.
"
"
';;~.:~I~'t:\"/;.,.
Mr.
Riemer'scampaign
was
nevergivencopies
ofthewaivers
requested.Instead"on February27,
2004,Mi.
Riemer'scampaignreceived
awritten
response,signedby
Mr.
Janes'supervisor,Mr.CharlesMcfrowell,DirectorofHIIDlanResources.Thisletterpurportedtobea responsetotheFebruary17,2004request.Itenclosedtwoblankwaiverforms,andalistof employeeswhohadsignedtheforms,identifyingwhichtypeofwaiverhadbeenexecuted. Wheninterviewed,MeJanesstatedthatinthetimeperiodbetweenFebruary17and February27,2004,hespokepersonallytoMr.Christoffersonandaskedhim
if
thelistwas sufficientinlieuoftheactualformsthemselves.AccordingtoJanes,Christoffersonagreedto acceptthe
list
Inhismostrecentstatementto
DCr,
Christoffersonsaidthathecan'trecallwhether heagreedtoacceptthelist.Thelistwasprovidedwithintendays,atimeperiodpreviouslyfound
by
thisofficetobeacceptableunderthepublicrecordslaw.
It
isalsonotuncommon
for
arecords requestortomodifyanearlierwrittenorverbalrequestthroughsubsequentcontactwiththerecords custodian.Thestatuteissilentonthatpractice,althoughfileprimarystatutory-remedyfor .noncompliancewitharecordsrequest,anactionformandamusseekingtocompelreleaseofthe records,clearlyleavesittotherequestorinitiallytodecidewhetherhereceivedtheinformation sought.Christofferson,anexperiencedpoliticalconsultantnotunfamiliarwiththenuancesofthe publicrecordslaw,acceptedthedocumentssuppliedatthetimewithoutcomplaint. TI1.eproblemliesintheactionsofcountyofficialsduringthetendayperiodbetweentheir receipt
ofthewrittenrequestandthe
dateoftheirresponse.
After
receiving
the
publicrecords request,theCountyHumanResourcesofficenotifiedCountyExecutiveWalkeroramemberofhis personalstaff.Atsomepoin;shortlythereafter.
it
wasdiscoveredthatnumerouscountyemployees hadnotexecutedtheirpensionwaiver
forms
andMr.Mokrohiskywaspersonallyassigned
by
/
 
Mr.ScottWalker Mr.DavidR.Riemer November10,2005 Page
3
CountyExecutiveWalkerto"deanup"
thismatter.
Mr.MokrohiskyandMr.Walkerreadily admittedthatthiswasamatterofsomeembarrassmenttotheadministration.Inanefforttogetall waiverssignedinahurry,employeeswhohadnotsignedwaiverformswerepersonallyvisitedto obtainsignaturesandtheformswerethenfiled.Onceallthemissingwaiverswereobtained,
NIr.·
Janesissuedanupdatedversionof
an
existinglistmaintainedbytheHumanResourcesstaffand providedittoMr.McDowelltogiveto
MY-
Christofferson.Thelistdidnotindicate
when.
peoplehadsignedthe
waivers,
justthefactthatsuchwaivershadbeenfiled.Bynotprovidingthecopies
of
thewaiversthemselves,thoserespondingtotherequestavoideddisclosingthefactthat numerousemployeeshadnotsigned.themuntilaftertherecordsrequestcameinfromtheRiemer campaign.
Insummary,
thefactspresentedindicatethatarecordscustodiancreatedrecordsinorderto respondtoapublicrecordsrequest.Then,afterallegedlyobtainingtheconsentoftherequester,the custodianprovidedadifferentrecordthanthatoriginallyrequestedwhichhadtheeffectofavoiding disclosurethatrecordswerecreatedaftertherequest.camein.
LegalAnalysisandConclusions
Wis.Stat.
§
1937(1)providesthatarequestermayseektocompel
the
releaseofapublic record
"(i)f
allauthority
withholds
a
record
ora
part
ofarecordordelaysgrantingaccess
to
a
recordorapartofarecord..."AsofthedateofChristofferson'swrittenrequest,onlyasubsetofthe waiversultimatelygeneratedhadbeenexecuted.
An
oftheremainingwaivers
set
forth
on
the
list
hadbeenexecutedbythetimethelistwasturnedover.Ratherthaninsistingonreceiptofthe waiversthemselves,
JanesassertsthatChristofferson
agreedto'accepttbelist.Christofferson's failure
to
complainseeminglyconfirmsthisversionofevents.Were
it
clearthat
Christofferson
demandedthewaiversandnotjustthelist,certainlythecountyofficialswouldbeguiltyof withholdingrequestedpublicrecords.Totheirmomentarygoodfortune,theyweresparedthe obligationtoproducetheactualwaivers,orsoonecouldreasonablyconclude. Themoredifficultquestioniswhethercountyofficialsdelayedgrantingaccesstopublic recordswithinthemeaningofthestatute.Thereislittledoubtthatthosewhoorchestratedthe responseengagedinameasureofchicanery.Whatevertheoriginalintenthadbeenwithrespectto thewaiverofbenefits
by
certainemployees,notaUofthosewhohadagreedorwereexpectedto executewaivershaddonesowhenChristoffersonmadehiswrittenrequest.Officialsremediedthat neglectwithinthetendayperiodandthencreatedarecord,theaforementionedlistwhich identifiedtheindividualswhobythenhadexecutedwaivers,butnotthedatesthosewaivers",'ere executed.Notsurprisingly,thepublic.recordstawissilentastotheproprietyofcreatingaself- servingdocumentinord.ertosatisfyarecordsrequest.Thelawspeakstodeiayinproductionof existingrecords,leavingtheissueathandwhethercountyofficialsviolated
the
law
by
no;turning over,inatimelyfashion,thewaiversalreadyexecutedwhen
thewritten
requestwasmade.

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