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Assembly Republican sues Gov. Tony Evers for access to records

Assembly Republican sues Gov. Tony Evers for access to records

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GOV TONY EVERS (copy) (copy)

Gov. Tony Evers in his Capitol office. 

A top Assembly Republican has filed a lawsuit demanding Gov. Tony Evers turn over emails and other records relating to funding for farmer mental health initiatives. 

The suit, filed Tuesday, asks the Dane County Circuit Court to order the governor release the information Rep. John Nygren asked for in an initial request late this summer.

The filing shows Evers' office denied it for being "overly broad," although it notes an identical request that the Marinette Republican filed on the same day with the state's agriculture agency was ultimately fulfilled. 

The action comes after a FOX6 report earlier this month showed Evers' aides refused to release a day's worth of his emails because it wasn't specific enough, despite the governor himself saying they should be made public. 

It also follows a summer of drama tied to the release of the funding, including a back-and-forth that in part contributed to the ousting of Evers' ag secretary. 

Nygren's mid-August request for a month's worth of correspondence related to farmer mental health funding came before the Legislature's budget committee freed up $200,000 in early September for the effort. The funding was a source of contention as Republicans declined to release it right away, sparking a spat between Evers' former ag secretary Brad Pfaff and the Senate's Republican leader that contributed to Republicans' vote to fire Pfaff this month

Nygren, who co-chairs the budget committee, slammed Evers for "blatantly hiding and denying access to public documents." 

“It is sad that Governor Evers and his staff refuse to be transparent and denied access to records about the very program they were seeking additional funding for,” said Nygren in a statement. 

Evers' office didn't immediately return a request for comment. 

In Nygren's records requests to to Evers and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, he sought communications with nine different words or phrases from July 2 to Aug. 2, 2019. 

Arguing that Evers has "a plain legal duty to disclose the records," the filing asks the court to order that the governor's office hand over the documents and cover Nygren's attorney fees as well as award "punitive damages." 

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Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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