April 23, 2014

Lawmakers settle open records lawsuit

Several Republican state legislators have settled a lawsuit that accused them of breaking the state’s Open Records Law.

Under the deal, Representatives Pat Strachota of West Bend, Dan Knodl of Germantown, Tyler August of Lake Geneva, Tom Larson of Colfax, and Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac will hand over e-mails from their personal accounts that deal with state business. Taxpayers will also give $2,520 in legal fees to the Center for Media and Democracy and the national Common Cause organization, the two groups that filed the lawsuit.

The groups wanted to find out about the lawmakers’ dealings with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group which works with businesses to draft model legislation for statehouses to consider. The Open Records Law requires government records to be public, including any communications to-and-from politicians which involve state business. The lawsuit quoted an e-mail from Thiesfeldt asking ALEC not to send communications to his taxpayer-funded e-mail address, but to his personal account instead.

The Media and Democracy Center says the groups were happy to get the records, but noted it was unfortunate that it took lawsuit to get it done.