On Thursday, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank D. Remington ordered the Wisconsin Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) “not to delete or destroy any record” that could be responsive to public records requests American Oversight previously filed. The ruling came one day after American Oversight asked the court to bar OSC from continuing to delete records in its custody, a practice that the office had admitted to in a letter earlier this month.
In that letter, sent on April 8, OSC’s counsel stated that the office “does not retain any unnecessary documents” and instead “evaluates” whether new documents in its custody are “of use to the investigation.” OSC then “routinely deletes” documents found to be “irrelevant or useless,” according to the letter. The letter was included with an April 8 production of additional documents that OSC claimed had been “inadvertently” excluded from earlier productions.
On Wednesday, American Oversight filed two motions asking the court to order OSC to stop deleting records and to consider imposing additional damages or finding OSC in contempt of an earlier court order.
The letter from OSC’s counsel also indicated that its position was that the office was not generally required to retain records absent a pending open records request — a view that was rejected more than six months ago by the Wisconsin Legislative Council and is in clear violation of Wisconsin’s public records retention law.
Following his order, Remington set a scheduling conference for Tuesday, April 26.
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