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August claiming compliance with watchdog group's open records request

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Stan Milam
October 9, 2012

— Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, is a defendant in a suit claiming he and others have not complied with an open records request.

The Center for Media and Democracy claims August has not complied with a request to search for and turn over correspondence with the American Legislative Exchange Council that August conducted in his capacity as an Assembly representative. The national office of Common Cause also is a plaintiff in the civil suit filed Oct. 1 in Dane County Circuit Court.

In a one-sentence statement, August responded to the suit. Through his legislative aide, Luke Bacher, August said, "Our office has complied with the open records request."

ALEC is associated with mostly Republican state legislators who use its legislative templates to craft proposals in their home states.

"Our request asked for all correspondence with ALEC," said Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy staff counsel. "Rep. August informed us that he complied with our request. We had received nothing.

"We eventually received copies of some of his Assembly office emails, but they were not correspondence with ALEC," Fischer said. "They were constituent emails in which ALEC was mentioned."

Fischer said his organization believes their request requires August to search his personal email account and turn over any correspondence with ALEC.

The suit also listed as defendants Reps. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac; Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend; Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown; and Rep. Tom Larson, R-Colfax.

"Normally, the defendants have 45 days to respond to the suit," Fischer said. "In the meantime, we simply want to know if there have been any emails, office or personal, with ALEC.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has already ruled that government business conducted through personal emails is subject to the open records law."

The groups bringing the suit claim that more than 30 bills in the 2011-12 legislative session were modeled after ALEC templates.

Fischer said he requested emails from August's personal account because that's the email address the representatives gave ALEC, according to ALEC documents.



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