The governor needed to appoint judges to three vacancies in Dane County. There were nine finalists. Letters were written to the governor about those finalists. The newspaper wanted to see copies of the letters, and copies of questionnaires each finalist completed. The request was made on June 4.
The governor did not hand over the records until July 8, five weeks later. Not to mention — what are the odds? — the records were finally handed over 90 minutes before Gov. Doyle sent out a series of three press releases announcing his appointments. So I guess the Gov’s office wanted to make sure that no one in the press or the public had a chance to get involved in the dialogue around the judicial vacancies.
Or as Paul Fanlund, editor of The Capital Times, puts it:
“The governor’s office clearly delayed release of these records until moments before announcing the appointments in a calculated attempt to prevent a story I don’t know how a reasonable person could interpret it otherwise.”
Lee Sensenbrenner, enjoying the hubris of power along with a stable and generous tax-funded salary as the governor’s spokesman, engaged in what bloggers refer to as snark when he heard about the lawsuit, indicating that he was surprised that the newspaper had the resources to file a lawsuit.
Wisconsin’s sunshine law doesn’t have a legally defined response time. 35 state sunshine laws do, and 15 don’t. That’s a reason to fix the Wisconsin law. Even though the law doesn’t have a mandated response time, it still requires state agencies to produce records in a timely manner.