Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman says he has taken legal action to force the mayors of Green Bay and Madison to testify before him as part of his review of the 2020 election.
But officials of both cities said they hadn’t been served with anything seeking to compel them to testify, and there was nothing listed in online court records involving Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich or Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.
Appearing before the Assembly Campaigns and Elections Committee yesterday, Gableman accused Genrich, Rhodes-Conway and the Wisconsin Elections Commission of a “cover up,” charging they were trying to avoid answering his questions.
Gableman also for the first time detailed who’s working for him as part of the probe approved by Assembly GOP leaders. Among them: a Kewaunee man who was involved in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election in Wisconsin.
Gableman filed subpoenas earlier this fall seeking to compel officials from Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, Racine and the Wisconsin Elections Commission to provide records and testify in private at his Brookfield office. One focus of his probe has been the use of private money from a group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to cover the costs of last year’s elections amid the pandemic.
He said yesterday only Kenosha has been cooperative and noted Dem AG Josh Kaul filed an action in Dane County court seeking to quash the subpoena issued to the Elections Commission and Administrator Meagan Wolfe. That action argues state law only allows Gableman to hear testimony in public before a legislative committee, not at a private office, and that his review has drifted into a law enforcement action in violation of the separation of powers.
Gableman told the committee his effort to force Genrich and Rhodes-Conway to testify before him was filed on Monday and there’s a hearing scheduled Dec. 22.
“They are trying to run and hide from accountability from the citizens they are supposed to serve,” Gableman said.
He gave no other details of the filings during the hearing. Afterward, he said they were filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court, but provided no other details as he said he had another commitment.
A search of the state’s CCAP system turned up no cases under the names of Gableman, Genrich or Rhodes-Conway. As of yesterday afternoon, the Waukesha County Circuit Court’s online calendar for Dec. 22 didn’t list a hearing involving any of the three parties.
Madison Attorney Mike Haas said the mayor hasn’t been served any notice of a court action. Meanwhile, Green Bay issued a statement saying it had already provided Gableman’s office almost 20,000 pages of publicly available documents and hadn’t heard of the move to compel testimony before being contacted by the media following yesterday’s hearing.
A Gableman aide didn’t immediately return a call yesterday seeking additional details of the court action.
Gableman listed 10 people who have worked with him this fall, including one person whose identity he is continuing to shield to protect the person’s full-time job.
Gableman said that person is a data expert making $40 an hour who creates timelines and spreadsheets, among other duties.
Gableman has faced criticism for a lack of transparency over who has been assisting him. The office has been using email addresses that don’t include names and one person who contacted local officials was only signing her emails “Carol M.” Since launching the probe, the identity of some staffers have been confirmed by the media.
Gableman said three retired Milwaukee Police detectives worked for him this fall, including Thomas Obregon, who is serving as the lead investigator. All three have been paid $40 an hour.
The others Gableman identified yesterday are:
*Washington, D.C., attorney Andrew Kloster, a former member of the Trump administration who is serving as Gableman’s chief of staff. He is being paid $5,000 per month.
*California attorney Carol Matheis, who is being paid $5,000 per month. She has previously been identified as the staffer who signed emails “Carol M.”
*Arkansas attorney Clint Lancaster, who’s being paid $10,000 per month. His website says his past clients include two reality stars from MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” an NFL linebacker and numerous “high profile/high stakes cases garnering national media attention.”
*Zakory Niemierowicz, who attended the hearing and handles scheduling, purchasing equipment, reimbursement claims and other office tasks. He’s being paid $4,000 per month.
*Gary Wait , who was employed Sept. 1-Nov. 1 as an investigator and was paid $3,250 a month. He was part of a private effort to scan ballots from last year’s presidential election to review them.
*Ron Heuer, president of the Wisconsin Voters Alliance, who is being paid $3,250 a month as an investigator, specializing in issues relating to voting in nursing homes. The WVA unsuccessfully sued to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Wisconsin, asking a court to allow the GOP-controlled Legislature to pick the state’s electors. The group also has filed open records requests with the cities that received the private grants for election costs.
The hearing was at times combative as Dem committee members questioned Gableman.
Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, pressed Gableman on the backgrounds of those he’s hired, noting one was involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results while another had ties to the Trump administration. Spreitzer questioned how Gableman’s investigation can be taken seriously given the staff. He added it seemed the former justice “was firmly in the lane” of suggesting the outcome of the 2020 election should be overturned.
Gableman interrupted Spreitzer, saying he was putting words in his mouth about trying to overturn the election results.
“Stop making things up, Mark,” Gableman said. “Shame on you.”
“Shame on you,” Spreitzer fired back, asking why he hired a man who was a plaintiff in one suit seeking to overturn “the will of the people of Wisconsin.”
Gableman later threatened to “pack up his books and go” unless Spreitzer ceased with baseless accusations.
The former justice also had a testy exchange with Rep. Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire. As she asked him a question, Gableman interrupted her, prompting the lawmaker to cut him off to say she had the floor. Chair Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, cut in to remind people to be respectful.
“That was nothing but a bunch of disrespect and him yelling at me. If this is how it’s going to go, I’m done,” Emerson said.
She later left the hearing before it ended.