Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bucher is wrong on open records issue

Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher is blasting Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager for suing Bucher's co-Republican, State Rep. Jeff Stone, for not complying with the Open Records law.

Open Records enforcement is a key part of the job of Attorney General and should remain that way. It's really disturbing -- downright scary, actually -- that Bucher does not think preserving public access to government records is a priority.

Stone was a major player in secret negotiations to hand county-owned Mitchell International Airport over to private interests, and to strip any ability of Milwaukee or Milwaukee County to oversee a major facility within their borders.

County Supervisor Richard Nyklewicz, whose district includes the airport, filed an open records request with Stone for documents related to the proprosed airport grab.

The sequence of events, according to the Journal Sentinel: Stone announced on Dec. 29 that he would introduce the airport takeover bill, and Nyklewicz that same day filed his open records request. Stone replied that he would not give Nyklewicz the information until after the bill was introduced. Despite a second request from Nyklewicz, Stone did not turn over the information until March 7 -- the day a public hearing was held on the bill, and four days after the legislation was introduced.

Bucher issued a press release yesterday that said: “This Attorney General has made the decision to file lawsuits that further her own political agenda, regardless of the costs to the taxpayers. When will this end? The taxpayers are the real victims here and will have to once again pay the bill for legal counsel and the waste of limited resources,” Bucher said.

What garbage. Residents of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County were the first victims here -- they were mugged by sleazy political maneuvering by Stone and his legislative co-conspirators State Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) and Mark Honadel State Rep. (R-South Milwaukee) and their cronies at the MMAC.

Nyklewicz, who was doing his job when he filed the records request, was a victim as well, of a politician so arrogant he thinks he is above the law. The law is clear -- records have to be turned over in a timely fashion, not when the person holding the records finds it convenient to do so.

Lautenschlager is doing the right thing here. The courts should come down hard on Stone.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The majority Republicans have abused open records laws to quash public input ever since they took control of the legislature. Things have gotten worse in the past four years.

A great example was the so-called "Job Creation Act" where the majority party worked secretly with industry lobbyists to craft a 160 page bill. They worked secretly to get the captains of industry to Madison for a hearing - working with schedulers for the industrial leaders months before the hearing.

Then, in a media blitz, the Republicans held a press conference to let the general public know about the bill - and held a hearing less than 24 hours later! That meant that anyone who was not in on the secret was at an incredible (and illegal) dissadvantage.

This is standard practice now. Work secretly, organize with supporters and then ambush potential opponents by making it impossible for anyone but an inside supporter able to attend hearings.

Peg Lautenschlager is right to take this seedy anti-democratic (and illegal) tactic to court. It is very scary that Bucher's partisan stripes are brighter than his commitement to uphold the law.