MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A state panel rejected former state Corrections secretary Ed Wall’s appeal of his firing, saying he knowingly tried to evade Wisconsin’s open records law.
The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission issued a ruling earlier this month throwing out Wall’s appeal of his firing from a backup job within the state Department of Justice. Wall’s attorney, Lester Pines, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday that he was likely to file an appeal with the circuit court.
Wall stepped down as the head of the state prison system in February amid concerns about how the Lincoln Hills juvenile prison was being run. Wall tried to secretly lobby Gov. Scott Walker’s chief of staff Rich Zipperer to return to his old job as administrator of the state Division of Criminal Investigation.
Wall wrote to Zipperer at his home address and suggested Zipperer should “feel free to shred” the letter after reading it so no public record would remain.
Instead, Zipperer reported what happened to Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, who then fired Wall.
“Wall understood that the document indeed was a public record and that the only way to avoid the required disclosure was to unlawfully keep it ‘strictly between you and me’ as Wall proposed,” WERC said. “Once the communication was disclosed, the attorney general had no choice but to terminate Wall. The action of a high-level administrator attempting to evade the law would significantly undermine the (Department of Justice) had lesser discipline been imposed.”
Schimel said in a written response that he was pleased WERC determined there was “just cause” to fire Wall.
“Transparency and integrity have been the cornerstones of my administration,” Schimel said.
But Pines said firing Wall over the open records issue was overly harsh.
Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said he hoped the case means there will be more serious regard for the open records law in the future by state workers and elected officials like Walker.