More outrage over meetings between Republican lawmakers and attorneys hired by them to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative districts. “Act 43 is rotten, and the process by which it was passed is rotten,” charges Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera. The immigrant rights group has filed a complaint with the District Attorney for Dane County alleging violations of both Wisconsin’s Constitution and statutes governing open meetings.
AUDIO: Christine Neumann-Ortiz (3:10)
Attorneys for Voces de la Frontera discovered that employees of Republican legislative leaders, working under the direction of an attorney paid for by taxpayers met secretly with Republican lawmakers, and that those lawmakers signed agreements to the effect that they would “ignore public comments” during last year’s redistricting work. “What is clear is that the attorney-client privilege was misused,” says Peter Earle, attorney for Voces de la Frontera. “The convener of each of the meetings across the street at the private law firm was the attorney in charge, representing the legislature. This is not just any old law. This is the law that sets in place the plan for democracy for the next ten years.”
AUDIO: Peter Earle (4:30)
Earle calls the secrecy agreements, signed by 58 Assembly Republicans and 17 GOP Senators, an “egregious violation of the public trust.” But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald thinks the meetings, and the secrecy agreements, have been mischaracterized: “just like anybody would be familiar with, an attorney-client privilege, and no one anticipated that it would be pierced by this judge at the federal level.” The confidentiality agreements with 75 GOP lawmakers were among documents turned over by an attorney with the firm of Michael Best & Friedrich in response to a federal court order. Fitzgerald says, with a federal lawsuit already pending, the secrecy agreements were needed to reinforce that the GOP lawmakers were not comment publicly. “It’s not something that we were trying to get secrecy in. The attorneys thought it was necessary.” The office of Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald says he has no comment.
AUDIO: Senator Scott Fitzgerald (3:00)
Neumann-Ortiz says the GOP legislative leadership “willfully and intentionally shut out any public opinion in the legislative process.” The group is asking for two things in its filing with the Dane County DA: that act 43 be thrown out and that a new, transparent and impartial redistricting process be conducted, and that investigations be conducted into any lawmakers who signed the secrecy agreements.