Wednesday, February 06, 2013

When John Doe Ends, Will Civil Remedies Begin?

The John Doe investigation has already produced criminal charges and convictions against multiple Scott Walker operatives and close associates. In addition the investigation has produced a rather high level of Republican operatives that have been granted immunity. Where will this end? I would be lying if I pretended to know to any degree of certainty.  But after the prosecutors finish their work, I certainly hope that they fully disclose what they perhaps couldn't during the course of the investigation itself.

For example, the various criminal complaints and other filings make it clear that there were multiple levels of open record obstruction within Scott Walker's Milwaukee County administration.  We know that there were things like secret routers and the frequent use of private emails for official business.  We know that these practices were "...never disclosed to county employees outside a closely held group within the Walker administration."

These shady practices weren't even disclosed to the acting director of the Information Management Services Division.  That county official was personally responsible for gathering emails that were responsive to open records requests.  She also served on an open records committee with Kelly Rindfleisch and Tim Russell, yet they apparently never took the opportunity to advise her of the secret router and email network.    

It seems very clear that John Doe prosecutors have identified open records requests that were successfully thwarted based on this shady setup inside the Walker administration. Take for example the following comment from Kelly Rindfleisch's criminal complaint.
"In fact, even though the secret e-mail system was used for business purposes which could have and which did include communications within the scope of Open Records requests, the existence of the system was never disclosed to Laurie Panella, the Acting Director of the Information Management Services Division."
If this statement means what it appears to mean, then the DA knows of specific records requests that were obstructed at least in part.  To the extent that prosecutors have positively identified specific requesters that were thwarted, they should be specifically notified of that fact.  This is especially true if criminal charges are not going to be filed regarding this specific issue. To the extent that the law allows, those obstructed record requesters should be made aware and thus be afforded the opportunity to seek civil remedies if they so choose.