Empower Wisconsin | May 5, 2020
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ abysmal record on Wisconsin’s open records law has been more clearly exposed.
Evers’ last week agreed to settle an open records request lawsuit filed by state Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). In so doing, the Evers administration will turn over thousands of documents sought and pay $40,000 in attorneys fee.
While it’s clear the governor’s legal team saw the writing on the wall, the Democrat’s spokespeople issued a ridiculous, self-serving statement insisting Evers is settling to “spare the state more time and money being put into politicians suing one another.”
“Simply put, while Rep. Nygren may have the time during this pandemic to let a lawsuit unnecessarily drag out in court, the Governor’s office does not,” the press release stated.
What a load of crap. Evers got caught — again — breaking the law and closing the door on open government.
“It seems that Governor Evers wants to blame COVID-19 for his lack of transparency,” Nygren, co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, said in a statement. “It took over six months, but Gov. Evers finally realizes he broke the law and has now agreed to fullfill the original request for records.”
Nygren sued in November after Evers’ attorney said the lawmaker’s request for documents on mental health programs for farmers and administration communications on Republican legislative leadership was overly broad. That’s a common refrain from the transparency troubled administration.
The request stemmed from a political temper-tantrum that then-Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Brad Pfaff had about funding. Pfaff, who was sent packing when the Republican-led Senate voted not to confirm his nomination, is now running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).
When Nygren filed the lawsuit in Dane County Court, he said Evers and his staff were “blatantly hiding and denying access to public documents.”
“Whether it’s the media, a concerned citizen, or an elected official, the public records law exists to provide access to what government is doing. Governor Evers is not above the law,” Nygren said.
But Evers and his administration have on multiple occasions behaved as if they were above Wisconsin’s open records laws.
“No amount of finger-pointing can distract from Governor Evers’s abysmal record of hiding documents from the public,” Nygren said.