March 16, 2011- The office of Gov. Scott Walker has agreed to a settlement in a lawsuit brought by Isthmus newspaper and the Wisconsin Associated Press over access to emails sent to the governor in response to his "budget repair bill." The settlement requires the governor to produce the emails and pay attorney fees for the plaintiffs' costs in bringing the suit.
The settlement calls for the defendants, Gov. Scott Walker and his office, to produce a disc containing these emails next Tuesday, March 22, at or after 4 p.m. It is agreed that the governor will produce emails "in the folders in which they are stored at the time of production."
In exchange for this access, the media requesters have agreed not to use the names of individuals who have sent emails to the governor in cases where there is reason for withholding them, as when they contain personal medical or financial information or raise a concern about retribution. The requesters also agreed not to use, publish or disclose any home addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers or Social Security numbers that may be contained in these emails.
Attorney Christa Westerberg represented Isthmus and the AP in this action; the governor and his office were represented by Assistant Attorney Generals Clayton Kawski and Mary Burke. The governor's chief legal counsel, Brian Hagedorn, also took part in the case.
As part of the settlement, the governor's office agreed to pay just over $7,000 in plantiffs' attorney fees and costs. But the settlement says this payment "is not nor is it to be construed as any admission of liability or of a violation of the public records law by Defendants, their agents, their officers or their employees."
Isthmus and the AP both made requests, under the state's Open Records Law, on Feb. 18, seeking emails that had been received by the governor's office in response to his "budget repair bill." Gov. Walker stated at his press conference on Feb. 17 that his office has gotten "over 8,000 emails" over the last few days and "the majority are telling us to stay firm, stay strong, to stand with the taxpayers."
The next day, Feb. 18, the governor said his office had now gotten 19,000 emails from state residents, with the "majority in favor" of his plan.