Scott Walker’s “transparent” government

So much for Gov. Scott Walker’s promise to make his administration a model of transparency. I previously mentioned Gov. Walker’s administration is being sued for failing to respond to several open records requests, and while his administration has now responded to the records requests, they’re clearly attempting to stonewall the requests, estimating the cost of printing out the emails Gov. Walker received in support of his proposal to remove collective bargaining rights for public employees at over $31,000:

“The governor said he had gotten more than 8,000 e-mails as of Feb. 17, with ‘the majority’ urging him to ‘stay firm’ on his budget repair bill,” Isthmus News Editor Bill Lueders said. “We’re just trying to see these largely supportive responses.”

AP reporter Todd Richmond amended his request to include e-mails concerning the bill through Feb. 25.

The lawsuit alleges that the governor’s office violated the Wisconsin Open Records law by withholding the messages and delaying access to them. It seeks release of the e-mails and attorneys’ fees for filing the lawsuit.

Isthmus and the AP did not receive a response to their records requests, the lawsuit states.

But 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.

In his records request, Lueders had asked that the e-mails be put on a disk instead of being printed on paper.

I’m not exactly sure how it costs $31,250 to print out somewhere between ten thousand and twenty thousand emails, but it certainly can’t cost $31,250 to put all the emails in their digital forms on a computer disk or flash drive.

The fact is, Gov. Walker has no interest in transparency within his administration, a fact that’s borne out by his history as Milwaukee County Executive, where time and time again his administration made every effort to stonewall every and any open records request that might shine a negative light on his administration.


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12 thoughts on “Scott Walker’s “transparent” government

  1. If there email system is set up right, then it should be a simple command or two to export all of Governor Walker’s email from the archive which they have set up to retain them.

  2. I’ve done public records discovery in the past under the FOIA, as well as private party discovery.

    As high as that number seems, it is not unrealistic. Under FOIA, you also have to pay for the employee’s time to obtain the information. I’ve had quotes for similar projects that were roughly proportionate to the 31,000. If less time is used you do get a refund.

    1. I’ve done plenty of public records discovery and when you have a cooperative agency you don’t pay $31,000 for freakin’ emails or anything else.

      And when you’re dealing with an administration that has already claimed 7.5 million dollars damage to the capitol building, while under sworn testimony in front of a judge, there’s no reason to believe anything anyone of them says.

      These are the tactics of a power mad, small-time, petty tyrant wannabe; plain and simple.

      Is there a point at which you guys decide to stop trying to defend this asinine, obstructionist, and anti-democratic behavior?

  3. Super your the lawyer not me, but I believe that the law is designed so that open records requests are not cost prohibitive to do so. A normal person cant pay $31000 for a request.

    I believe there is a section where you can request them to forward all emails aso it is virtually free….

    This is where I get my open records request info

    8. Getting records in the requested format: Providing records in electronic form may make them more useful to the requester, and it saves paper and copy time.

    1. PP. I’m sympathetic and am certainly not defending the quote. I am just relaying my personal expereince. I find the story somewhat amusing because I was also offered a public terminal to look at the records. I took that offer and was able to substantially reduce the initial quote when I discovered they would be producing many more documents that I had requested.

      John, Thanks for clearing that up. I was wondering if the Atty fees to review the documents were being charged.

  4. I disagree on several points, Super Id. FOIA is a different beast than Wisconsin’s open records law. It would seem that location of the records is not an issue. They know where they are.

    The native form of the records is electronic, and the request asked for the electronic form, not the printed form. An authority may charge the actual, necessary and direct costs of reproducing records, or for transcription fees, and the cost of locating records, and the cost of mailing. Per-page costs are normally around 25 cents.

    An authority may decide to examine each record to determine if needs to be redacted. This, too, would not require printing. Whether they can or should charge for redaction has been a matter of some debate, and even the AG points out the conflict. In one recent case, the court seemed to indicate that authorities could charge. In all others, and in past opinions of the AG, they shouldn’t.

    One could imagine that Walker could claim it would take an immense amount of time to examine the emails for confidential info that would need to be redacted. On the other hand, it would’ve taken a similarly immense amount of time for Walker’s staff to determine that thousands of emails were supportive. Why would they expend that staff expense in a time like this? As one can easily imagine, the reporter’s intent was to verify Walker’s claim. It is not clear how Walker could’ve made his claim.

    In my experience, email retention at the Capitol is extremely poor. They don’t adhere to the AG’s guide to open records compliance, which recommends seven years of retention. Last time I checked a few years ago, they only held backups of legislator email for 30 days.
    An alternative is to allow public inspection on state equipment as per Wis. Stat. 19.35(2).

  5. The rumor that I hear now( i am trying to confirm it) is that Walker has let it be known he will not release any e-mails until the whole fiasco gets settled.

    could be he is just too busy or it could be his image is taking a big enough hit without having to answer why he was lying about the email support.

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