MADISON, Wis. — The treatment of a request for public salary and pension information from One Wisconsin Now to then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker provides a vivid example of how his administration dodged and delayed the release of open records, as required by law. Documents from the first criminal investigation of Gov. Walker, recently released under court order, show One Wisconsin Now’s request was quickly brought to the attention of top Walker aides in county government and his gubernatorial campaign, but was not fulfilled until months later, and only after legal action to compel the documents release was threatened.
“Gov. Walker and his team’s actions show that they believe Wisconsin’s open records statute is a nuisance to be evaded, not a law to be followed,” said Ross. “But given everything we know about what that gang was doing on the public dime – from rampant campaigning to trying to funnel public money to campaign cronies – it’s no surprise they wanted to hide from public scrutiny.”
In April 2010, One Wisconsin Now made a request under the open records law for information about the salary and pension benefits paid to and accrued by Gov. Walker while Milwaukee County Executive.
Within days of receiving the request, top aide to Walker in Milwaukee County and now high-paid state employee Cindy Archer circulated a copy of the request to Walker’s “inner circle” – a cabal of Walker’s Milwaukee County and gubernatorial campaign staff. But it was only after One Wisconsin Now threatened legal action that documents responsive to the simple request were provided, four months later.
The Walker team’s internal discussion of One Wisconsin Now open records request was part of 16,000 pages of emails released recently under court order as part of the first “John Doe” criminal probe of Gov. Walker, covering his time as Milwaukee County Executive. A total of six aides and associates of Gov. Walker were convicted or plead guilty to crimes ranging from embezzling, laundering campaign contributions and campaigning on public time as a result of the probe.
The document release shows massive use of private e-mail by then County Executive Walker and his top aides to conduct public business, presumably to shield their actions from scrutiny. Among the unscrupulous dealings that were hidden from public view were efforts by Walker and his top aides to secure a lucrative contract to provide office space for the county for his longtime campaign treasurer.
“The court ordered release of records shows the utter contempt of the Walker administration for the open records law. From his campaign manager berating public employees to slow down the release of records to using private emails to hide public business, dodge, duck, dip and dive seems to be the policy of Gov. Walker and his gang on public records,” concluded Ross.