Wisconsin Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann of WKOW-TV broke an investigative piece updated today demonstrating Scott Walker knew of and concealed official public records on a series of private email accounts as well as conducting political business between public and private email systems.
This is an echo of Walker's email scandal during his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive when he and his staff installed a secret router and email system in the County Executive's office, (the 'inner circle'), and points to repeated violations as governor of the clear language of Wisconsin's Open Records law.
"According to a 'compliance outline' written by [former] Wisconsin attorney General JB Van Hollen, a Republican, public records include "e-mail sent or received on an authority's computer system" and "personal e-mail sent by officers or employees of the authority," as well as "e-mail conducting government business sent or received on the personal e-mail account of an authority's officer or employee," [noted John Weishan, a Democrat and a critic of Walker on the Milwaukee County board]
It is a felony to violate Wisconsin's Open Records law. 'Whoever with intent to injure or defraud destroys, damages, removes or conceals any public record is guilty of a Class H felony,' the Wisconsin statutes say. And the penalty for a Class H felony is 'a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 6 years, or both.' (Rothschild, The Progressive).
The Wisocnsin DoJ compliance outline also notes:
e. Electronic records and communications. ...
ii. E-mail sent or received on an authority’s computer system is a record. This includes personal e-mail sent by officers or employees of the authority. Schill, 2010 WI 86, ¶ 152, 327 Wis. 2d 572, ¶ 152, 786 N.W.2d 177, ¶ 152 (Bradley, J., concurring); Id., ¶ 173 (Gableman, J., concurring); Id., ¶ 188 (Roggensack, J., dissenting).
iii. E-mail conducting government business sent or received on the personal e-mail account of an authority’s officer or employee also constitutes a record. (Wisconsin Public Records Law Wis. Stat. 19.31-19.39 COMPLIANCE OUTLINE September 2012 DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ATTORNEY GENERAL J.B. VAN HOLLEN.)
Political-campaign work done on state time to coordinate public policy also appears to present Walker and top staff in violation of misconduct in public office.
Writes WKOW-TV's Neumann:
[A] 27 News investigation into the use and disclosure of personal emails by the Governor's office is raising questions about just how those records are handled.
On May 28, 27 News asked Gov. Walker if he knew whether former Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes, former Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch or other members of his administration had used personal email for government business.
'I don't know,' said Gov. Walker. 'I mean, not that I'm aware of.'
But we now know the Governor was aware of it at the time that exchange took place.
Just a few days before we asked those questions, 27 News requested all of the emails sent to or from the personal email addresses of Gilkes, Huebsch, and Walker's second Chief of Staff Eric Schutt - that contained official state business communications.
Their personal email addresses were provided to 27 News by a tipster. ...
Much of it [the emails] dealt with planning and strategy. A March 2011 email sent from from Gilkes to other senior staffers, included a memo detailing the self-prescribed weaknesses of the Walker administration's first 100 days in office - mentioning Gov. Walker's overexposure to the media and long winded speeches.
Personal email was used to discuss big policy moments as well. One thread showed a discussion among senior staffers on the day after the State Senate passed Act 10. It includes the statement Secretary Huebsch ultimately released to the media on it being published and becoming law.
Others dealt directly with the strategy surrounding Act 10 and the concern caused after Judge Mary Ann Sumi blocked the law. ...
But dozens of the emails 27 News received were never sent to an official state account until they were forwarded to the government email address of Gov. Walker's Chief Legal Counsel Brian Hagedorn on July 31, 2015. That date comes four years after the emails were originally written and two months after our open records request.
'Yeah, I think it's an issue to be sure and apparently and potentially a serious one,' said [director of the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics,] who believes that delay and lag time raises questions about whether 27 News even got all of the personal emails that ever existed, or if some were permanently deleted from personal accounts long ago.'
As for the identity of the tipster helping Neumann's piece, it is likely should a criminal probe and prosecution follow, Wisconsin will be hearing more about this tipster.