'I have no idea': Vos attorney did not monitor Michael Gableman's compliance with open records law in his election review

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
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MADISON – A lawyer for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos testified Monday he had done little to ensure the contractor overseeing a Republican review of the 2020 election had turned over all documents that were responsive to a series of public records requests from a liberal group.

The testimony from Vos' staff attorney, Steve Fawcett, caught the attention of Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn, who started the day's proceedings by saying she didn't understand why Republicans have provided so few records in response to requests from American Oversight.

"I did have concerns about the paucity of the records," she said.

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Assembly Republicans last summer hired former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to look into the election. His work is expected to cost taxpayers $676,000.

Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by about 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. Recounts and court rulings have upheld his victory and independent reviews have uncovered no signs of significant voter fraud.

American Oversight has brought three records lawsuits over the election review.

More: Gableman subpoenas voting machine companies in 2020 review

More: Wisconsin Republicans back away from their effort to jail the mayors of Green Bay and Madison

Fawcett's testimony came in one case that has centered on whether Vos did enough to identify records that were responsive to some of the group's requests. American Oversight has asked Bailey-Rihn to hold Vos in contempt of court for how he handled the requests.

In more than two hours of testimony, Fawcett acknowledged he had not initially asked Gableman to search his records in response to requests from American Oversight.

In November, Bailey-Rihn ordered Vos to turn over records and ruled he was responsible for gathering records that Gableman's office maintained through August.

Fawcett said he discussed that order with Gableman and told him to produce records in response to it. Fawcett said he did not give Gableman any parameters for how to conduct his search of records and did not do anything to ensure he had turned over all relevant records.

The state's open records law says that public officials are responsible for obtaining documents from their contractors in response to requests from the public.

In her November ruling, Bailey-Rihn determined that Vos was obligated to obtain and turn over emails, calendars, reports and other documents from Gableman's office from last summer.

Gableman's initial contract with the Assembly requires him to keep a weekly report of the findings of his review. Gableman publicly released a report in November but has never made available any weekly reports.

Asked if Gableman has been writing weekly reports, Fawcett said, "I have no idea."

The judge expressed surprise that Fawcett does not know whether Gableman is producing those reports given that the contract names Fawcett as the "point of contact" between Gableman and the Assembly.

Bailey-Rihn said she would decide later whether to find Vos in contempt of court. The two sides will file briefs on the issue over the comings weeks.

If Vos is found in contempt of court, he could be ordered to pay as much as $2,000 per day until he produces all relevant records.

Monday's hearing came three days after Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington ordered Republicans to turn over sealed copies of other records about the election review to him. Remington will decide in the coming weeks whether those records should be made public.

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Vos attorney did not monitor Gableman compliance with open records law

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