Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday indicated a decision by his administration to not release an employee's text messages related to a questionable WEDC loan goes against his own open records policy.
This summer, the Wisconsin State Journal requested copies of text messages sent by a former Department of Administration aide related to a failed $500,000 loan given by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to Building Committee Inc., a now-defunct company owned by a top donor to the governor's campaign.
The request was denied on Aug. 25. In the denial, DOA spokesman Cullen Werwie told the State Journal, "it’s worth noting transitory messages are not required to be retained." The state's Public Records Board had changed its policy regarding transitory records the day before the State Journal's request was denied.
The board reversed that change in a unanimous decision Monday.
"The bottom line is we expect people to follow the law and if they don’t, we expect that there be consequences," Walker told reporters Wednesday. "But right now, again, in the state of Wisconsin, if you ask for information about state business and it came in — whether it’s on the official email, a personal email or a text message — the expectation is that information, from my office or anyone else in our administration, should be provided to you."
The governor's administration has also deemed visitor logs for the executive residence to be transitory.
The liberal group One Wisconsin Now requested copies of those logs in April. The original request asked for records from Nov. 5, 2014 — the day after Walker won re-election — to the present date, which was at that time April 29. In October, logs for the period of April 9 through August 26 were released to OWN and a group of reporters.
DOA legal counsel Elisabeth Winterhack told OWN the administration had no responsive records prior to April 8, 2015. Winterhack said the records are transitory and not required to be kept under state law.
The governor said he hasn't asked anyone from the Department of Administration about its decision not to release the text messages.
Walker said his office has and will continue to comply with the state's open records laws, noting that requests his office has fulfilled have included text messages and personal emails sent to and from the governor.
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