Robin Vos’ attorney: ‘I don’t have control over Mr. Gableman’ | Local Government

Robin Vos’ attorney: ‘I don’t have control over Mr. Gableman’ | Local Government

Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn on Thursday questioned whether Michael Gableman has “gone rogue” by refusing to hand over public records related to the former state Supreme Court Justice’s review of Wisconsin’s 2020 election.

Bailey-Rihn aired her frustrations in a hearing on a lawsuit filed by liberal watchdog group American Oversight seeking public records related to the ongoing review, which was launched last year by Republicans at a cost of $676,000 to taxpayers.

Despite requests from the court to provide documents from Gableman and those working within the Office of Special Counsel, Vos’ attorney Ronald Stadler said he has asked for those records, but cannot force the former justice to comply.

“It isn’t as simple as Commissioner Gordon turning on the bat light and summoning Batman,” Stadler said. “Somebody has to see it, somebody has to respond to it. I don’t have control over Mr. Gableman.”

“This isn’t Batman because you know who this person is,” Bailey-Rihn said. “He doesn’t have an alternate identity that’s hidden in the shadows. The open records law was designed to bring sunshine into state government for everyone.”

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Bailey-Rihn ordered Stadler and Vos to provide Gableman with an affidavit detailing his obligation to provide the requested documents. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for June 16.

“I don’t want to hold Speaker Vos and the Assembly in contempt just to have the taxpayers pay more money for something that should be easily resolved,” Bailey-Rihn said. “So I’m going to give you one more crack at purging the contempt and that is getting an affidavit from Mr. Gableman or I’m going to start assessing monetary fines.”

Attorneys for Vos have sought to purge contempt orders related to documents requested by American Oversight. In late March, Vos described Bailey-Rihn’s decision to hold him in contempt as “a liberal judge in Dane County trying to make us look bad.”

The offices of Vos and Gableman did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Bailey-Rihn said earlier this month she was “astounded” that she had to order the Republicans who hired Gableman to tell him to stop deleting requested public records. Her order follows a similar demand issued last month by Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington ordering Gableman to not delete or destroy any records that may be responsive to American Oversight’s original request.

Both Gableman and American Oversight have posted hundreds of documents online, but American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg has contended that more records likely exist and have not been provided.

Attorneys for Gableman have said the former justice is exempt from retaining records and his office regularly destroys documents deemed “irrelevant or useless.” An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Council back in October found that deleting such records, even by a state contractor like Gableman, violates state law.

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Bailey-Rihn said Gableman’s refusal to hand over requested documents leads her to believe that Vos and the Assembly have little control over the former justice’s ongoing review.

“That leads me to think they are hiding something or they don’t want to tell this court that they’ve turned over all the records because they haven’t, and that’s something that perhaps Speaker Vos has to address that his own people are running amok,” Bailey-Rihn said.

“I now am somewhat sympathetic if it is the case that Speaker Vos and the Assembly are between a rock and a hard place, but they hired this person,” Bailey-Rihn added. “This is their contractor and if he’s gone rogue and refuses to do what they ask of him then I think they have some other remedies that I think they need to look into.”

Long-running review

Vos, who had previously indicated plans to begin wrapping up Gableman’s review by the time his contract expired at the end of April, has again extended the former justice’s contract after former President Donald Trump, who continues to push unfounded claims of widespread election fraud, pressured Republicans to continue with the effort. Last week, Vos paused Gableman’s probe to allow time for five pending lawsuits related to the review to play out in court and halved Gableman’s monthly salary from $11,000 to $5,500.

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The case is one of three filed by American Oversight against Gableman, Vos and the Assembly seeking public records related to Gableman’s review of the 2020 election.

American Oversight chief counsel Dan Schwager said in a statement Thursday that Vos’ “unwillingness to take the basic steps necessary to get these records released demonstrates a clear contempt for the law and Wisconsin voters.”

“It’s time for Speaker Vos and the Assembly to stop letting Mr. Gableman hide the ball, and comply with the public’s right to transparency,” Schwager said.

A recount, court decisions and multiple reviews have affirmed that President Joe Biden defeated Trump in Wisconsin by almost 21,000 votes. Only 24 people out of nearly 3.3 million who cast ballots have been charged with election fraud in Wisconsin. Despite no evidence of widespread fraud in the state’s presidential election, Gableman has suggested the state Legislature consider dismantling the Wisconsin Elections Commission and decertification of the election’s results, something experts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said is a constitutional impossibility.

Gableman has issued subpoenas to local and state election officials, the mayors of the state’s five largest cities and two companies that make vote-counting systems, Election Systems & Software and Dominion Voting Systems. Many of the subpoenaed parties have rejected Gableman’s requests for in-person meetings or documents, while the former state Supreme Court justice has also withdrawn some requests, including one filed with immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera Action.

Gableman’s subpoenas have been met with a slew of legal challenges, with Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filing a lawsuit in October challenging Gableman’s authority to demand in-person interviews. Kaul has argued demanding private interviews outside a public setting is illegal.