By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The attorney for Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos testified Monday that he didn’t review records turned over by the investigator Vos hired to look into the 2020 election to determine if they complied with the state open records law.
Vos attorney Steve Fawcett’s testimony came in one of three lawsuits brought by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight seeking records related to the ongoing investigation.
American Oversight argues that Vos, a Republican, should be found in contempt of court for not turning over all the responsive records related to the investigation being led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. Vos says all of the responsive records have been provided.
Fawcett and Assembly Chief Clerk Blazel testified Monday about the attempts made to locate the requested records. Blazel testified briefly, while Fawcett was on the stand for 2 1/2 hours. Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ordered both sides to submit arguments by March 16, saying she would rule after that.
Fawcett was the contact person in Vos’ office named in Gableman’s contract. Fawcett testified that he forwarded the court order requiring records to be produced to Gableman, but did not follow up with him about how he would retrieve those records, what search terms he would use and didn’t give them any help in gathering the records.
“I didn’t ask him for anything specifically other than to give us documents that comply with this court order,” Fawcett testified.
Fawcett testified that he did not know if Gableman searched for text messages or private email accounts that would be subject to the open records law. He said he did not give Gableman any training on how to comply with the open records law and that he didn’t remember if he told Gableman he could delete records if he wanted to. Even though Gableman’s contract with the state called for him to provide weekly reports, Fawcett said he had not received any.
American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg asked Fawcett what he did to ensure that no records were withheld.
“I don’t believe I did anything,” Fawcett said.
Fawcett said in response to a question from the judge that he didn’t look at the records Gableman provided.
“You understand that ultimately the buck stops with Mr. Vos and his office to produce relevant documents,” Bailey-Rihn said to Fawcett.
American Oversight has said only 27 out of 148 pages provided from the first three months of the investigation pertain to contractor records held by Gableman. The judge said at an earlier hearing that the amount of records turned over to date “strikes me as going well beyond credibility.”
When asked if he thought that was a low number of responsive records from Gableman, Fawcett said: “I have no idea what they kept or did not keep.”
He said sometimes records requests yield a large number of responsive documents and other times they do not.
Vos hired Gableman last summer at a cost of $676,000 in taxpayer funds to look into the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden over Donald Trump. Biden’s win by just under 21,000 votes has withstood recounts, lawsuits and multiple reviews. There is no evidence of widespread fraud.
In another American Oversight lawsuit, Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington on Friday ordered Vos to turn over records being sought by American Oversight by Jan. 31. Remington said he would decide at a March 8 hearing whether to make them public.
Two other pending lawsuits are directly related to the Gableman investigation. One, brought by Gableman in Waukesha County, attempts to force the mayors of Madison and Green Bay to sit for depositions behind closed doors with him and his investigators. A judge on Friday set an April 22 hearing date on that case.
Another lawsuit, brought by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, seeks to block a subpoena from Gableman seeking records and a closed-door interview with the state’s top elections administrator, Meagan Wolfe. The judge in that case earlier this month declined to immediately block the subpoenas issued to the Wolfe and commission, but also allowed for future legal challenges.