Thursday, July 29, 2010

Walker's Open Records Games are Costly

Today Dan Bice reported that Scott Walker's administration has charged Milwaukee Supervisor John Weishan $2,800 to fulfill and open records request. What did Weishan get for that price tag? Four meaningless sheets of paper and a list of Walker employees according to the report. What makes the open records obstruction even worse is the fact that Walker's office didn't really provide the supervisor with the actual records themselves. Apparently he was only given summaries of Internet surfing done by Walker and his underlings. Naturally that summery was also produced by Walker workers.

Scott Walker has a long history of obstructing open records requests from political opponents and other people that he perceives as adversaries. I have some personal knowledge of that fact. But more specifically, Walker has been caught before not giving the actual records requested but rather producing some doctored data instead.

Back in 2004 the David Riemer campaign submitted an open records request to the Walker administration. They were trying to learn if Walker had kept one of his original promises: having "at will" employees sign pension benefit waivers. When the Walker administration received this request and realized that they had failed to keep that promise, they ran around trying to get as many waiver signatures as possible. When they finally did send records, it was only a listing rather than copies of the actual waivers (which would have shown the dates of the last minute signatures). Quite simply it wasn't what Riemer asked for in his request. Riemer later filed an open records complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Justice who had some of the following choice words for the Walker administration's open records games:

"In sum, this episode evinces a case of how government officials ought not to do business...Nobody honored to serve in public office ought to manipulate public records in this fashion -- that is the opinion of this office."

As I concluded when I chronicled my own Walker open records odyssey several months ago: "Although Walker's policy positions change with the wind, it seems that his approach to open records has not changed at all." Walker's open records games are not just costly to the requester, but they are also costly to any sense of open government in Milwaukee County.

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