Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Walkergate: Abele's Dereliction Of Duty

Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele has a long history of saying one thing and doing another.

Abele has said he's willing to work with anyone but then tries to bust the unions. Abele has said he wants to work with the County Board, but then attacks them and usurps control of the county.  Abele has said he supports LGBT rights but then holds a fundraiser for the homophobic Deanna Alexander.  Abele claims he is a Democrat but gives campaign donations to the most rabid of Teapublicans.  Abele claims to be all about transparency but has an issue with filling open records requests.

The list of Abele's hypocrisy goes on for along time.

Another doozy from Abele is that he supports Mary Burke for governor even though he is giving aid and comfort to Scott Walker.

For more than six months, I have been pointing out that Chris Abele needs to own up to his responsibilities and demand that the Walkergate emails and documents be returned to their rightful owner, Milwaukee County. Enforcing the perception that Abele believes himself to be above the law, he has refused to do his job. Abele would rather let the corporate media giant, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, do his job, but all they appear to be doing is helping string this along.  Things have gotten so bad that the County Board had to pass a resolution calling on his to do his job and ask for these items to be released back to the county.

Now Abele has come out with a statement saying he won't do his job without a court order!
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says he cannot release records sought by the Journal Sentinel that were seized by prosecutors in a secret John Doe investigation unless a judge orders it.

Abele made the point in a legal brief written on his behalf and released Tuesday.

Abele can't release them because he doesn't have them, the brief says.
Well, duh! The reason people are calling on his to get the documents is because he doesn't have them!

Abele then relies on Bruce Landgraf, the prosecuting attorney in the Walkergate cases, for help in why he shouldn't do his job, but ends up proving my point that it needs to be Abele and not the paper calling for the release of county property (emphasis mine):
"The records the newspaper seeks are secret John Doe records...rather than official records that then-County Executive Walker failed to deliver to his successor upon leaving office," Landgraf wrote.

Even if the records are government business records, they remain subject to a secrecy order, Landgraf says.

He also says the Journal Sentinel lacks standing to intervene in the John Doe to make its record release request.

Abele could make such a request if Walker failed to turn over county records when he left office, Landgraf's legal brief says.
Well, isn't that interesting? Again, one has to wonder why Abele is refusing to adamantly to do his job.

Oh, but there's more. There's always more.

Abele can't even rely on the brief by Landgraf, because, yes, there is a paper trail of the lack of a paper trail left by Walker and company when they beat it out of the courthouse:
The dozens of Walker's file cabinets were virtually emptied of their contents by the end of last month, and 16 bankers' boxes of records retrieved this week from storage by aides to Holloway appear well short of the total paper-load once held in the courthouse's third-floor executive suite.

A tour this week of the sparsely staffed offices revealed banks of empty file drawers, save a set of various bureaucratic forms, county budget books and one stack of papers on various issues left in the office of Fran McLaughlin, who was Walker's county spokeswoman.

The empty drawers, coupled with the absence of any message or memo telling the whereabouts of Walker's office documents - and at least two bins of shredded paper left by Walker staffers - were perplexing, Mester said.

"There was nothing left," Mester said. "There was no communication from the previous administration as far as where anything was."

That makes responding to public record requests or questions about ongoing issues more difficult, he said. The 16 boxes of records were tracked down through the county information management department and returned to the county executive's office.
Hmmm. So Abele is the only one with standing to request the documents and has a reason to ask for them as that Walker and his gang failed to leave computers and documents they would need for filling open records requests.

So what does Abele do? Doubles down on the stupid excuses:
But Abele would turn over records from the John Doe probe that started in 2010 and ended in February of 2013 only if the judge decides they are public records, Abele's brief says.

Abele made clear he doesn't want to receive any personal or political emails or other records that were obtained in the Doe probe.
That excuse doesn't cut it either. We know from the emails and documents already released from the Kelly Rindfleisch trials that they were practicing illegal politics and using personal emails to conduct county business, making them fair game.

But the real kicker comes with Abele's last demands regarding the release of the emails (again, emphasis mine):
Abele suggests that if the judge decides to release records sought by the newspaper, Nettesheim should screen them to exclude ones that aren't otherwise public.

Or Nettesheim could turn them over to Walker "so that he could review them and provide to County Executive Abele the public records that he should have provided...when he left office," Abele's brief says.
Yes, you read that accurately.

Abele seriously suggested that the Walkergate judge turn over the emails to Walker so that he could go through them.

Gee, how many shredders do you think that Walker would have standing by if he were to get his hands on those documents? And how many of those shredders do you suppose would catch on fire from the high volume of use?

This farce has gone on long enough.  It is time and beyond time that Abele does his job and calls for the return of the Walkergate emails and documents and to honor any and all open records requests once he does get them.


  1. Makes one think there might be things in those records that Abele doesn't want people to see. Things that relate to Abele maybe?

  2. Yes, this whole exercise is a farce meant to drag on the process forever indefinitely. The whole point is that John Doe 1 was settled and closed, making those public employees' records derived from their work on county time open to public scrutiny. The Kelly Rindfleisch records were released, so why not the documented work of all the others? All the records and computers that were removed from the Walker regime's offices are supposed to be public property, open to public scrutiny at any time. You would think that an obstruction of justice problem would have come up in the John Doe probe. Were all those documents in the dumpster being held in safe-keeping for future examination?
    Leah Vukmir recently lost her case where she tried to evade freedom of information requests. Her communications, just like any other public officials', were not exempt from scrutiny.
    I would think that the public interest is being shortchanged here. The public has a right to know. How about an effort to return Wisconsin's former reputation of open and honest government?