Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Michael Gableman have reached a verbal agreement to extend the former justice’s contract to continue his 2020 election review, their offices told WisPolitics.com.
They added there is no written agreement that includes an end date for the probe, which was originally supposed to wrap up Oct. 31. Still, Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement yesterday he’s requested recommendations from Gableman by February so they can be worked into legislation the Assembly passes before the two-year session ends in March. He also again sought to blame the delay on lawsuits filed challenging Gableman’s tactics.
Among other things, Dem AG Josh Kaul has filed an action arguing against Gableman’s attempt to depose Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe in private rather than publicly before a legislative committee. Gableman has also sought to have the mayors of Madison and Green Bay jailed unless they comply with his subpoenas; that issue is pending before a Waukesha judge. And Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich has asked for sanctions against Gableman over the request.
“As mentioned previously, we never anticipated the number of lawsuits from Democrats to stall progress of this investigation,” Vos said.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, ripped the lack of a written amendment extending the probe. He said it is indicative of a lack of transparency and accountability with the effort from the outset and again called it a waste of taxpayer funds. Hintz said he doubts it will wrap up by February as well.
“It’s pretty clear it’s not about what this investigation produces. It’s about continuing to promote the ‘Big Lie’ and have an endless investigation that implies that there was wrongdoing and to fan the flames and to make insinuations that have flat-out been proven wrong,” Hintz said.
The amendment Gableman signed with Vos in August to the original contract included a document laying out the $676,000 budget for the review. That included a note that the budget was to cover Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. Still, the language in the amendment otherwise didn’t include an end date.
A Gableman spokesman said the former justice and Vos were able to extend the contract via verbal agreement due to a provision in the original deal from late June. That provision stated the contract was in effect until Oct. 31 “unless altered or extended by mutual agreement.” The provision doesn’t mention a written contract being needed.
Vos has faced questions over the past week on whether he would extend the contract with Gableman, particularly after the former justice said he may seek additional funds for his probe.
The budget attached to the August amendment included $325,000 for a data analysis contractor.
The Gableman spokesman said the bulk of that remains unspent as the office has continued to look for a qualified, non-partisan contractor. The spokesman didn’t immediately have an updated accounting of how much of the original budget was still left. At a Dec. 1 Assembly committee hearing, Gableman said he had spent about a quarter of his original budget.
Since then, he has indicated he may seek additional funds to cover the costs of the review.
“We have not approached the speaker’s office for more money,” the spokesman said.