Gov. Tony Evers has settled an open records lawsuit with a top Republican lawmaker, agreeing to turn over more than 10,000 pages of documents to Rep. John Nygren and pay $40,000 in attorney fees, according to a news release issued late Friday by the governor’s office.
“In an effort to spare the state more time and money being put into politicians suing one another, the Governor’s Office has agreed to settle Rep. Nygren’s lawsuit,” the release said. “The Governor’s Office, with the help of DOJ staff, has been working to review and provide thousands upon thousands of pages of records. Those will continue to be provided as they are reviewed.”
Nygren, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee from Marinette, used the open records law in August to request documents from Evers that mentioned GOP lawmakers and mental health services for farmers.
Nygren made a similar request to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
The department provided its records to Nygren, but Evers’ attorney denied the request to the governor’s office, arguing it was overly broad.
“If Governor Evers was concerned the original request was overly broad, his staff could have contacted me to seek a resolution,” Nygren said in a statement Friday evening. “In fact, Governor Evers’s staff has done this for other records requests I have sent to his office. Instead, Governor Evers denied the request without any contact or follow-up. My only option was to seek court action to force Governor Evers to comply with the law. And because of that lawsuit, he is finally going to comply with the law.”
According to Nygren’s lawsuit, filed in November, he sought communications from Evers’ office from July 2 to Aug. 2 related to nine topics.
Four of the topics had to do with farmer mental health. The others had to do with references to five GOP lawmakers — Nygren; Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester; Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau; Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills, co-chairwoman of the budget committee; and Rep. Joan Ballweg of Markesan, chairwoman of a suicide prevention task force.
“By settling this lawsuit, the Evers Administration can focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic challenges facing Wisconsinites,” the statement from Evers’ office says.
Contact Gina Barton at (414) 224-2125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @writerbarton.
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