The Dane County Circuit Court on Friday ordered the Wisconsin State Assembly and Speaker Robin Vos to release records related to the Assembly’s efforts to investigate the 2020 general election.
The order comes as part of a lawsuit filed by American Oversight after the Speaker Vos and the Assembly failed to release records in response to the watchdog group’s public records requests. American Oversight is represented by Pines Bach LLP.
The court gave Vos and the Assembly 10 days to release certain records held by the contractors tasked with conducting the election inquiry.
On Oct. 8, American Oversight filed a lawsuit in the Dane County Circuit Court against Vos and the Assembly for failing to release records related to the partisan election review. That same day, the court ordered Vos and the Assembly to release responsive records within 30 days or show cause for why they could or would not, setting a hearing for Nov. 5.
The lawsuit seeks the release of certain documents held by the contractors hired by the Assembly to conduct the investigation, including former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. While Vos and the Assembly have released a limited number of documents held by the Assembly itself, they have thus far failed to produce any records from the contractors hired to conduct the election review.
In Friday’s hearing and in filings this week, Vos and the Assembly insisted that they should not have to turn over records held by Gableman, arguing that he works for a separate entity called the “office of special counsel,” and that any public records requests should be directed to that office rather than to Vos, the Assembly Clerk, or the Assembly itself.
“Speaker Vos has done everything in his power to protect this investigation from scrutiny,” said American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers. “After months of delay tactics, finger-pointing, and bureaucratic run-arounds, we are grateful the court has put a stop to these ridiculous shell games. We are pleased Vos and the Assembly have been ordered to comply with the law and release these records.”
Vos announced the election investigation on May 26 and, according to news reports, Gableman was retained as a contractor on June 26. The Wisconsin Assembly didn’t formally designate the office of special counsel until Aug. 27 — more than two months later.
Under Wisconsin’s open records law, state authorities are responsible for the records produced by the contractors that they hire. At the conclusion of today’s hearing, the court ordered Vos and the Assembly to release any responsive records created by the contractors prior to Aug. 27. The court did not address the question of records created after that date.
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