By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Leave it to Tony Evers to offer a discount on something he refuses to provide.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the governor “wants to make it cheaper for the public to obtain government documents in some cases…”
A proposal in Evers’ state budget plan would prohibit government agencies from charging to fill open records request unless the cost of locating documents exceeds $100. That’s up from the longstanding $50 threshold.
That all sounds great. But the Evers administration has such a woeful record on following the state’s open records law that the governor’s “generosity” rings hollow. On this Sunshine Week, Two-Faced Tony’s discount can’t hide his many assaults on open government.
As Wisconsin Spotlight reported last month, the governor’s office and his administration have routinely failed to fill open records requests or have long delayed the release of documents to journalists, lawmakers and the general public.
Empower Wisconsin is waiting on at least seven outstanding open records requests to the administration, five of which were requested more than two months ago.
It took the governor’s office 236 days to fill Empower Wisconsin’s request for correspondence between Evers and his staff regarding his 2019 sacking of former Gov. Scott Walker’s appointments to state boards and commissions. That open records request, filed on Feb. 5, 2020 and finally completed on Sept. 28 of the same year, appeared to have missing and incomplete communications.
The MacIver Institute waited 233 days for the state Department of Health Services to fill an open records request.
State. Sen. Dale Kooyenga has been waiting for more than seven months for cost estimates on the damage done during last summer’s riots in Madison.
Open government advocates say the records location fee discount is long overdue, and they applaud the governor for including it in his budget.
Getting a cost break on public records requests the Evers administration doesn’t fill in the first place isn’t a great deal. Still we wonder if pending requests will receive the new rate if and when the administration gets around to complying with the law.