It was just last week that the state media did blanket coverage on issues of open records and open government. It is part of a tradition that they call Sunshine Week. Apparently after only a week they are already burnt out from open records issues. Yesterday the Burnett County District Attorney began looking for a ‘special prosecutor’ for an open records complaint filed by OWN against Michael Gableman. I’m not sure what the traditional media uses to judge the value of a news story but it is hard to argue that this is not one. A sitting judge that aspires to the highest court in our state is hiding emails from his state account, refusing to fully honor a request made under Wisconsin’s open records laws? After a complaint was filed, a District Attorney is now looking for a ‘special prosecutor’ and this is not news?
The virtual lack of reporting on this important development makes even less sense when one considers that members of the media have had the same problem with Gableman. For example the AP briefly mentioned last week that they made similar requests for state emails and that they have not even received a response. This, even though the Attorney General’s office says that 10 days is usually a reasonable amount of time to get out a response to an open records request. So Gableman is hiding his state email from not only OWN, but from the media and the public. Given these specific circumstances, how could it not be newsworthy when a District Attorney begins looking for a ‘special prosecutor’ to investigate the matter?
Perhaps the media has decided to give Michael Gableman the benefit of the doubt when he falsely claims that he has honored our open records request. Given the kind of dishonesty that has been the hallmark of his campaign, it is nearly impossible to understand why anyone would take anything that they say at face value. I’ll even propose a few very direct questions that the media could ask Gableman to dispel his campaign’s dishonesty on this issue:
1. Did you withhold eight emails that fit OWN’s original criteria?
2. Did you ever turn them over to OWN?
3. Exactly how are state emails that fit a list of political search words and names ‘purely personal?’
4. Did you ever respond to OWN’s suggestion that you simply redact any ‘purely personal’ information that may be in the eight emails?
Assuming that Gableman will actually answer these direct questions, members of the media can then cross reference his answers with OWN’s complaint and our supporting documentation. Doing so will quickly reveal that a sitting judge and a candidate for Wisconsin’s highest court is hiding public records and that his actions warrant the coming investigation by a ‘special prosecutor.’ Now that is definitely news, whether the traditional media decides to cover it or not.