Brostoff-WILL open records settlement to cost state $1,800

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Taxpayers are on the hook for more than $1,800 following a new settlement in an open records case.

The deal came about after the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued Rep. Jonathan Brostoff earlier this year because the Milwaukee Dem declined to provide emails to a WILL researcher in electronic form.

In response to the 2017 WILL records request, which asked for electronic copies of emails relating to occupational licensing reform, Brostoff’s office printed off thousands of pages of documents and charged the group $3,240. WILL in its February lawsuit argued Brostoff should have provided electronic records as requested.

As part of the settlement agreement, Brostoff agreed to provide the emails to WILL electronically and cover the group’s court costs and attorney fees, amounting to $1,822, the group said.

Department of Justice spokesman Johnny Koremenos said the amount would be covered by the Assembly Chief Clerk’s office’s existing budget.

Brostoff said in a statement yesterday he decided to print off the documents WILL had asked for in its open records request last year because of advice from Assembly Chief Clerk Patrick Fuller.

“Speaker (Robin) Vos and the Chief Clerk should examine their caucus policies and guidelines to take into account recent court rulings,” he said, referencing a recent Dane County judge’s order that Republican Rep. Scott Krug release records electronically to Madison journalist and Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council President Bill Lueders.

The state DOJ in March appealed the ruling.

A spokeswoman for Vos, R-Rochester, did not return a call seeking comment. Fuller did not respond to an email.

Brostoff also knocked WILL over the lawsuit, saying: “The fact that an extreme right-wing group like WILL is going after a strong, progressive Democrat shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.”

WILL President Rick Esenberg countered that WILL prioritizes open government and has “opposed efforts by both Republicans and Democrats to resist government transparency.”

“Rep. Brostoff can try to change the subject by pretending to be a victim, but that won’t change the fact that he tried to play fast and loose with the law and got caught,” he said.

Asked why the state decided to settle in Brostoff’s case and release the records electronically, Koremenos said in an email Brostoff and Krug were following the Assembly Chief Clerk’s office policy, and he noted ensuing lawsuits — from WILL and Leuders — both sought to challenge the policy.

He also stressed the suits didn’t represent “a ‘left vs. right’ and ‘right vs. left’ fight.”

“Since DOJ is already litigating the case involving Rep. Krug, we did not want to waste taxpayer resources fighting another case on the same issue,” he said.

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