A Republican lawmaker on Friday apologized for taking an unattended sign left in the state Capitol in May that referred to President Donald Trump as a “serial groper” and was critical of Wisconsin lawmakers’ support for the president.
But Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, also said he was not sorry for “trying to uphold appropriate decorum” in the Capitol, according to a statement Kooyenga released Friday along with a Capitol Police report. Kooyenga has not been cited or charged with a crime.
On May 23, an 80-year-old man who owned the sign and had a permit to have it in the state Capitol contacted Capitol police after his sign, which was left unattended in the building, disappeared.
The sign said “Scott Walker, Paul Ryan and many WI republican legislators support a corrupt, treasonous, health care wrecking, lying, incompetent, unethical, narcissistic, immoral, tax and draft-dodging, sadistic, racist, and confessed serial groper who thinks nothing about spending millions of taxpayer dollars for his golfing and luxury family vacations and even more billions for a senseless wall ... and so on and WE THE PEOPLE BE DAMNED!”
After conducting interviews and reviewing video footage, Capitol Police determined Kooyenga took the sign — which someone else attending an event at the Capitol that day had previously complained about. The representative’s staff member found the sign in his office.
“Kooyenga stated he was present earlier in the day inside of the Capitol Rotunda and heard young male school-age boys, saying I want to be an elected groper,” the complaint says.
Kooyenga told police he intended to share the sign with the Department of Administration to determine whether it was appropriate, and if he could do it again, he would not have taken it.
“In my view, the sign was inappropriate in several ways and I felt it should not be in plain view of the scores of schoolchildren who were touring the Capitol at that time,” Kooyenga said in a statement. “It was not my intention to cause harm to the owner of the sign and I returned it immediately when I was asked for its return.”
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In an interview, Kooyenga said the sign was near an entrance of the Capitol, where signs usually aren’t kept, and contained profanity.
“Essentially I don’t think profanity should be in the public domain ... profanity should not be in the halls of the Capitol,” Kooyenga said, noting the Capitol was busy with school tour groups at the time. “The father of four in me was like, ‘Profanity, kids, let’s get this out of here and figure it out later.’ ”
Kooyenga said he released the statement and the report Friday because a Democrat was seeking information about the incident. Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Cross Plains, said she was contacted by the sign owner for help in obtaining a copy of the video recording.
The owner’s request was denied on June 7 by Christopher Green, chief counsel for DOA’s legal services division, because releasing the video could “reveal the location and range of the cameras” in the Capitol.
“If released, these videos could be used to thwart law enforcement and endanger public safety,” according to a letter from Green to the owner.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the denial sounded “like a complete crock of an excuse.”
“They are basically saying that none of the video taken in the Capitol can ever be made public because that would reveal to people where some of the cameras are. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and I think they are just trying to cover for the good legislator,” Lueders said. “In my opinion, this denial is actionable, and I would advise the person who received it to first ask for reconsideration and, if that doesn’t work, go looking for a lawyer.”