Scott Walker is in more legal hot water than any Governor should be just two months into his term. As of today, Walker is being sued in an effort to force him to comply with the Wisconsin Open Records Law as well as Wis. Stat. § 19.37.
On Feb 18, 2011 Gov Walker was served with FOIA requests for 8,000 emails he cited during a press conference as overwhelmingly positive, urging him to “stay firm” with the unions. He followed that press conference up with another one wherein he cited that he had received over “19,000 positive emails” urging him to not budge from his position of stripping collective bargaining rights from the Wisconsin unions.
The state law says the administration must act “as soon as practicable and without delay” to respond to records requests. Neither the Governor nor his office has responded yet to the requests or provided information regarding their status, which lead the requesters to file a complaint to force the Governor to comply with the law.
Walker only made the situation worse by ignoring the law. The Wisconsin Associated Press, the state’s largest news service, is one of the two requesters, and on Feb 25 after requesting updates and being ignored, the reporter filed an additional request for ALL of Walker’s emails relating to the “budget repair bill”.
Isthmus’ The Daily Page reports:
“Isthmus newspaper and the Wisconsin Associated Press today filed a lawsuit against Gov. Scott Walker over his office’s failure to respond to open records requests regarding emails received by his office……The lawsuit, filed this afternoon in Dane County court, names as defendants Gov. Walker and the office of the governor…. The complaint states: “Defendants have violated the Wisconsin Open Records Law and Wis. Stat. § 19.37(1) by withholding the requested email messages and delaying granting access to the email messages.” It calls the defendants’ failure to provide these records “arbitrary and capricious.”
Lueders, in his Feb. 25 email to Werwie (Walker spokesperson) and Hagedorn (the Governor’s legal counsel) , stated: “My strong preference is never to litigate when it is possible to cooperate, but I should let you know that, given the obvious news value of these communications and the urgency of these issues, media requesters of this information are considering legal remedies.” “We deeply regret the need to take this action to compel the governor and his office to comply with the law,” says Lueders. “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.”
As of today, neither the Governor nor his legal counsel have responded to the requests. Governor Walker is only making things worse by delaying justice. He appears to have all kinds of time to hold press conferences, talk to prank phone callers and go after Democratic state Senators, but no time to comply with the law. Governor Walker seems to have embraced Sarah Palin’s mantra, “I’ll do whatever I please until the courts tell me I can’t.” That attitude earned her early recall noise as Mayor of Wasilla.
We shouldn’t have to force our officials to follow the law. They are supposed to be upholding it. So much for openness and transparency in the Walker administration.