Milwaukee DA Stonewalling on Costs of Walker Investigation

Published April 4, 2013

“We’ve done several thousand open records requests over the years. It’s rare that you get stonewalled like this,” said Orville Seymer of Citizens for Responsible Government, a grassroots Wisconsin advocacy group dedicated to fiscal conservatism, property rights and honest government.

Seymer was referring to the response to CRG’s requests to the office of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm seeking records of costs associated with the recently closed “John Doe Investigation” into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his time as Milwaukee County Executive.

“This was a nearly three-year John Doe investigation,” said Seymer. “It had to cost well over a million dollars. I wanted to know: What did we taxpayers get for our million dollars?”

As of this writing, Seymer has made 15 open records requests to the DA’s office and has received little in the way of cooperation or information.

Fishing Expedition?     

In 2010, when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he asked the DA’s office to look into irregularities regarding finances in a county-run veteran’s fundraising event called “Operation Freedom.” In the end, six persons were charged with wrongdoing, including three who worked under Walker. The investigation concluded Walker had done nothing improper.

Over its course, however, the investigation was expanded several times and used against him throughout his 2010 gubernatorial and 2012 gubernatorial recall campaigns. Leading up to the recall election in June 2012, illegal leaks about the investigation were allegedly made to news media. Forty-three members of the DA’s office had signed Walker recall petitions. Government workers upset at collective bargaining and dues payment reforms championed by Walker led the failed recall effort.

“I’m not sure, but this has to be one of the longest investigations of its kind in Wisconsin history,” said Seymour.

Stonewalling 101  

Since the John Doe investigation was closed on February 21, 2013, many persons have made open records requests regarding its costs. All have been denied.  Seymer, however, has been the most persistent.

“We are making very slow progress, but I think they understand that I will not give up.” said Seymer.    

Seymer has asked for information regarding costs associated with the investigation; names of all persons who worked on the investigation; copies of DA’s office employee manuals, policies or procedures; information on the pay range and benefits packages of DA office employees; copies of any bills, invoices or statements related to the investigation; records of any disciplinary actions taken against any DA’s office employees during the course of the investigation; spreadsheets listing non-payroll expenditures related to the investigation; copies of calendars of key individuals involved in the investigation; names of all DA’s office employees who work as “investigators”; and names of individuals who work in the DA’s office “Public Integrity Unit.”

Thus far, Seymer has received nine responses, four of which contained actual information. He has been given the names of all DA’s office personnel who work as “investigators” and 48 pages of receipts, mostly for court reporter services.

Brien Farley ([email protected]) writes from Genesee, Wisconsin.