A Dane County judge on Wednesday ruled Robin Vos inappropriately declined to turn over records related to Michael Gableman’s review of the 2020 election and issued financial sanctions against the speaker, the former Supreme Court justice and the Assembly.
Judge Frank Remington ordered the release of the records sought by the liberal group American Oversight. But he also put his ruling on hold until March 8, when he will address Gableman’s motion to stay the proceedings as the case is appealed.
Remington ordered Vos, the Assembly and Gableman’s Office of Special Counsel to each pay American Oversight $1,000 in punitive damages. He also ruled that the Washington, D.C.-based group is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees.
Remington wrote in his ruling the respondents’ “denials, delays, and refusals violate the letter and the spirit of Wisconsin’s public records law.” That includes a declaration from Gableman’s office in a “misspelled email” that “their records must be kept secret on account of ‘strategic information to our investigation.'”
Remington noted Gableman’s office offered no specific reasons for its refusal to turn over the records.
Melanie Sloan, senior adviser at American Oversight, praised the ruling.
“Speaker Vos and Michael Gableman have done everything in their power to avoid running a transparent investigation,” she said. “Their claims of seriousness and non-partisanship have been belied by their actions from the outset.”
Vos and Gableman’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment late this afternoon.
The suit stems from seven record requests the group submitted to Gableman’s office and the Assembly between Sept. 15 and Oct. 26. That includes contracts, invoices and records related to the scope of the authority of Gableman’s office, among other things.
Assembly Chief Clerk Ted Blazel turned over some records, while Vos said that he had already responded to other similar requests from the group and didn’t need to respond to this one. Gableman’s office responded with some records, but wrote others would be “help (sp) until the conclusion of our investigation.”
Remington in December ordered the release of records that were sought, but several motions were filed seeking to prevent that.
In his ruling, Remington took Gableman’s office to task for several procedural issues, including filing a reply brief that was more than twice as long as allowed and the assertion the judge “cannot conduct informed, competent review of content” that was sought, finding that argument “has no basis in law or reason.”
American Oversight had also targeted Blazel in its suit. Remington wrote the group failed to show he had wrongfully delayed or denied access to any records.
Read the ruling here.