Ballots are stored in boxes and bags as workers recount Milwaukee County's ballots at the Wisconsin Center. Photo by Adam Kelnhofer, WisPolitics.com, Nov. 23, 2020.

A Dane County judge has ordered Assembly Speaker Robin Vos not to destroy records related to former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman’s 2020 election probe.

Wednesday’s order, which Dane County Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn said is “effective immediately,” comes after fellow Dane County Judge Frank Remington ordered Gableman not to delete records related to the election investigation as required by law. Gableman’s attorney James Bopp said last month he would object to Remington’s order.

“I’m frankly amazed that I have to say, don’t destroy records that are subject to an open records request or order that to occur,” Bailey-Rihn said.

The order Bailey-Rihn issued applies to records requested by liberal group American Oversight from June through August 2021. American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg said the Washington, D.C.-based group has only received 27 pages of records for the period. Westerberg added American Oversight received documents from other sources that the group didn’t receive from the Office of Special Counsel.

Bailey-Rihn said she would hold Vos, R-Rochester, the Assembly and Assembly Chief Clerk Ted Blazel in contempt if more records were destroyed because Gableman had a contract with Vos at the time. Bailey-Rihn said they are the ones responsible for retaining the records during the three-month period.

Vos attorney Ronald Stadler said Vos and the Assembly can’t control whether Gableman believes he legally has to keep public records. Bailey-Rihn said Gableman has an ethical obligation to follow open records law.

“I’m just struggling with the idea that somebody is above the law, and why should I not tell you to tell him what the law is?” Bailey-Rihn said. “He should know it, but Judge Remington felt it was necessary to order him to stop deleting records.”

Stadler argued it wasn’t accurate to say “anyone is thumbing their nose at the law,” but that the Office of Special Counsel has a different interpretation of the law.

“It seems to me that the logical assumption is that people would not destroy records, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the position in the Office of Special Counsel,” Bailey-Rihn said.

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