In reversal, Gov. Evers releases day's worth of emails

December 5, 2019

MADISON — 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.”

Man charged with damaging state Supreme Court chambers

MADISON — Prosecutors have charged a Madison man with causing thousands of dollars in damage to the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers last month.

Court records indicate 26-year-old Timothy Binford was charged Monday with felony property damage and disorderly conduct. He could face up to three-and-a-half years in prison and 90 days in jail if convicted on both counts.

According to the criminal complaint, Binford entered the chambers on Nov. 26. He told police that he touched two statutes and saw dragons and snakes on one of them, which triggered what he called a “fury of rage”within him. He said he started walking around the room throwing items, including chairs, electronics, papers, books and name plates. He also tipped over a large conference table that separates the justices'seats from the audience's seats.

He told officers that he had drunk one beer and taken some CBD oil. He said wasn't there to hurt anyone and he would take full responsibility for his actions.

The complaint stated Binford caused at least $5,000 in damage.

Online court records listed the state public defender office as Binford's attorney but didn't name a specific lawyer. A message left at the public defender's Madison office Wednesday wasn't immediately returned.


Associated Press