MADISON, Wis. — Governor Scott Walker continues engaging in a pattern of secrecy with the public he was elected to serve. His administration recently refused to fulfill a simple request for email communications between the Governor and his chief of staff. In Milwaukee County, Scott Walker’s administration went to great lengths to limit public scrutiny of its conduct of government business. It went so far as to try to evade the state open records law with a secret computer network for communications between Walker and his top staff.
“This is very simple,” said Scot Ross, Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now. “E-mails between the Governor and his chief of staff are open records and ought to be made available to the public for inspection upon request, period.”
In their simple request under the state open records law, One Wisconsin Now asked for, “copies of public records of email conversations” from Walker to his chief of staff or from the chief of staff to Walker during his term in office. In response, Walker refused to fulfill the request as submitted, arguing that asking for emails between two state employees was not a “reasonable limitation as to subject matter.”
Ross noted the existence of the secret Milwaukee County computer network was uncovered in connection with an investigation that resulted in six close Walker aides and associates pleading guilty to crimes ranging from laundering campaign donations, campaigning on public time, and embezzling.
E-mails from the secret network released as part of the legal cases contained numerous embarrassing exchanges featuring reprehensible racism and contempt by his top staffers towards persons suffering from mental illness under county care. Staffers from Walker’s gubernatorial campaign were intimately involved in managing the day-to-day operations of the county with en eye towards advancing his electoral goals, including urging county staff to restrict access to public records. Walker himself was revealed as an active participant in managing the smallest details of his public image and directing a politics first response to tragic incidents in which a teenager was killed and a woman under county care starved.
“Gov. Walker’s tenure has been marred by cronyism, corruption and incompetence. Fear that even more embarrassing revelations about how Gov. Walker and his top staff conduct themselves in public office could come to light is not a reason to deny a legitimate request for access to public records,” he concluded.