Gov. Tony Evers is facing questions about transparency after denying a request from Milwaukee TV station Fox 6 to see his official emails.

The station reported that it first requested a month’s worth of emails. Evers office said that request was too broad. The station asked for a week’s worth, and was again denied. Finally, the station asked for one day’s worth of emails. The governor’s office again denied their request, saying it was too broad. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Bill Lueders with the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council said Tuesday. “I think it’s a manageable amount of emails, and I think it should be provided upon request.”

Lueders knows a bit about emails and governors. He sued former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to see his emails, and ultimately got what he says were tens of thousands of emails. 

“There is value to having access to an archive like that,” Lueders said. “You get to see what communications are coming from whom and how often they are coming. You can do some kind of analysis if you have all of the emails. Which is why requesters are entitled to the emails.”

Lueders said he doesn’t think Evers is being difficult about his emails intentionally. He said the governor’s staff is likely making the decisions here. 

“Tony Evers has not been like a disaster when it comes to public transparency,” Lueders said. “There have been a couple of hiccups. And I think these are things that are actually done by staff.”

Evers’ office sent a letter to explain its denial. The letter states that providing one day of emails would result in more than 3,000 pages of correspondence, and that the office has 49 other requests to fulfill. 

“Wisconsin taxpayers should not be asked to pay the salary of a state employee to work exclusively on an insufficiently specific request for weeks [of emails], to the detriment of all other requests, requesters, and job responsibilities, when that requester need only provide a subject matter, as the law requires,” the letter adds. 

Lueders said there is a history of Wisconsin governors releasing thousands of emails without a specific search for each topic. Again, he said he sued former Gov. Walker not long after he took office. 

“The past precedent in this area is when Gov. Walker was sued, by me as it turns out, for not promptly releasing the emails he received when he introduced the budget repair legislation to kneecap public employee unions. He released tens of thousands of emails,” Lueders said. “He just turned over the entire boatload of correspondence that he received from all over the country. No redactions. No fuss, no muss. And it worked out well. You ask for something and you should get it.”

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.

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