On Friday, a Wisconsin judge ordered Michael Gableman, the attorney running Wisconsin’s partisan investigation of the 2020 election, to turn over to the court within 10 days sealed copies of records related to the inquiry.
American Oversight had sued the Wisconsin State Assembly, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Assembly Clerk Blazel, and Gableman’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for the records that the office has confirmed it possesses but has refused to release.
During Friday’s hearing, Judge Frank Remington of the Dane County Circuit Court affirmed that Wisconsin’s public records law applies to the OSC, noting that the state has a strong presumption of transparency, and set a Jan. 31 deadline for the OSC to provide the records to the court so he can determine whether they can be released.
The court also ordered Gableman to appear before the court on Jan. 27 to allow the court to assess the former chief justice’s credibility in determining whether the OSC was properly served; the OSC’s lawyer maintains, contrary to record evidence, that he was not.
“Judge Remington expressed skepticism about the Office of Special Counsel’s arguments for withholding records, and American Oversight looks forward to vindicating the rights of Wisconsin citizens under the state’s Open Records Law,” said Melanie Sloan, American Oversight’s senior adviser.
The hearing also brought up uncertainty about whether Gableman has a proper contract with the Assembly to conduct the investigation. His contract had originally been set to end in October of last year, and possibly through the end of 2021, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in December announced that Gableman’s work would extend into the new year and potentially cost more than the $676,000 already authorized. The court ordered the Assembly to submit a copy of Gableman’s contract by Jan. 25.
The costs of Gableman’s investigation have grown in recent months, as has the number of contractors working in the OSC. This week, American Oversight obtained and published records showing that the office spent more than $63,000 on staff salaries in December — including $11,000 for Gableman himself — up from a total staff budget of $28,250 in September.
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