D.A.: Walker’s stealthy vote broke Wisconsin’s open meetings law

By Steven Elbow
The Capital Times

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne charged state Senate Republicans Wednesday with open meetings law violations in connection with a controversial move they made to pass legislation to curtail public sector union bargaining rights.

“Our investigation has found merit in the verified complaints, which allows us to commence this litigation,” says Ozanne in a statement. “This litigation does not address the merits or the wisdom of the legislation.”

Senate Republicans had been stymied by 14 Democrats who fled the state last month to deprive the GOP-controlled Senate of the 20-member quorum needed to pass Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, which included a measure to effectively end collective bargaining for public employees. A week ago, Republicans hastily called a joint conference committee, including members of both legislative houses, to consider a bill that was stripped of fiscal elements, allowing the legislation to be passed by a simple majority.

State law requires 24 hours notice for such meetings unless “good cause” exists. The Republicans’ notice was short of two hours.

The Senate passed the legislation, prompting thousands of angry protesters to swarm the Capitol. The bill was passed by the Assembly the next day and signed by Walker on Friday.

Senate Chief Clerk Robert Marchant has said the Republicans acted legally.

But Wednesday, Ozanne charged Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, his brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, Senate President Mike Ellis and Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Scott Suder with violating the state’s open meetings law.

The complaint filed by Ozanne charges that no reason existed for the exigency with which the conference committee called the meeting, and says the committee should have given the customary 24-hour notice.

“The public notice for said meeting was insufficient as to reasonably likely apprise the public and the news media that the Joint Committee of Conference would consider, discuss, debate and act on a new version of said bill consisting of only those items denominated ‘non-fiscal,'” the complaint states.

The complaint went on to say, “No good cause existed such that the notice of 24 hours was impossible or impractical.”

The law passed as a result of the Legislature’s unusual actions becomes law after Secretary of State Doug LaFollette publishes the legislation, which he said he will do on March 25, the maximum 10 days allowed for publication. Ozanne is seeking a court injunction to prevent La Follette from publishing the legislation until the court matter is resolved.

Resolution could take time, Ozanne noted in the complaint. State law prevents civil actions against the legislators while the Legislature is in session, as well as for 15 days after the end of the session.

Ozanne’s investigation into the matter was prompted by complaints from Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and AFSCME Council 24 executive director Marty Biel.

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H/T Daily Kos

2 responses to “D.A.: Walker’s stealthy vote broke Wisconsin’s open meetings law

  1. Pingback: The Progressive Mind » D.A.: Walker’s stealthy vote broke Wisconsin’s open meetings law | COTO Report

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