The state Department of Justice is fighting back against claims by a judge that records included in a report released by the agency earlier this month should not have been made public.
The report about the leak of secret records from the former Government Accountability Board to The Guardian newspaper included claims that staff had launched a third and previously unknown probe targeting conservatives and had kept the records. Labeled “John Doe III” by the DOJ, that discovery has prompted calls for the resignations of the administrators at the current Ethics and Elections agencies, which were created when the GAB was dissolved.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge William Hue, who had been overseeing the case, told The Wisconsin State Journal that information should have been kept confidential and it was a mistake to release it as part of a broader investigation into leaks from a John Doe investigation that targeted Governor Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups – an investigation known as “John Doe II.” Hue said that, because the ethics investigation was closed and no charges were filed, its existence should have remained a secret.
In a nine page statement from DOJ released late Monday afternoon, the agency defended the decision to release the information as “critical to document the circumstances that allowed the leak to occur in the first place.”
The DOJ laid out its case for why the existence of the investigation, and the fact that evidence collected from it was being stored along with evidence from the second John Doe, was an example of poor records management at the former GAB that resulted in the leak of documents in the first place. “All of these materials were co-mingled and mishandled, creating the circumstances leading to the leak,” the statement contends.
Hue has since stepped down from overseeing the case, after it was revealed he had made comments about the John Doe on Twitter prior to overseeing the leak investigation. Another judge will still have to decide whether to pursue the contempt proceedings against several prosecutors and former GAB staff that Attorney General Brad Schimel has called for.