MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers released a day’s worth of his emails to a newspaper, after initially saying state law prohibited him from doing that.
Evers fulfilled an open records request made by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for all emails he sent and received on Nov. 12. The three emails he provided were copies of two press releases and his daily schedule, the newspaper reported Wednesday. The Associated Press made a similar request for a single day’s emails but has not yet received a response from Evers.
Evers released the day’s worth of emails to the Journal Sentinel after denying a similar request from a WITI-TV reporter in October. Evers said then he rejected it because the reporter’s request was not limited to a specific subject. Open records advocates had criticized him for that position.
Evers’ legal counsel said the office was releasing the governor’s emails from a single day because it was making an exception to a portion of the public records law that says a request for records “is deemed sufficient if it reasonably describes the requested record or the information requested.”
Evers and his legal team contend that portion of state law requires requests for emailed communication to include a specific topic and until last week said emails wouldn’t be released without one.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the state’s public records law says each request for records must be received by government officials “with a presumption of complete public access.” Denying access to public records “generally is contrary to the public interest, and only in an exceptional case may access be denied.”
Lueders said nothing in the law requires the governor to withhold records and that Evers’ reasoning for switching course leaves open the door to deny the same kind of request in the future.
“It’s troubling that rather than say this is the law and we are going to obey it, they say we’re right and we’re doing all we can, but out of the kindness of our heart we’re going to release the records,” Lueders said. “It preserves their ability to selectively say no to somebody else in the future.”