Judge calls on Vos’ lawyer in legal action
In an open case seeking sanctions against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, an attorney for the president said he had little involvement in a thorough investigation Vos ordered into the 2020 election.
Testimony from Vos’s chief attorney, Steve Fawcett, prompted Dane County Circuit Court Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn to repeatedly intervene, at one point asking Fawcett if he understood. that as far as the records of the investigation are concerned, “the buck stops” with Vos.
Monday’s hearing stemmed from one of three open lawsuits filed by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight. The group sued Vos and former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, whom Vos tapped to conduct a broad investigation into the 2020 election, arguing they failed to adequately respond to requests for the tapes. related to the investigation. American Oversight asks Bailey-Rihn to force Vos’s office to turn over more files from the investigation, arguing that evidence shows they did not respond adequately the first time around.
Fawcett was listed as the contact person for Vos’s office on Gableman’s contract, but he testified that he did not train Gableman on how to respond to requests for records, including which records to keep. During nearly three hours of testimony, he frequently told U.S. supervisory attorney Christa Westerberg that he did not personally oversee Gableman’s response to the group’s request for tapes.
“Have you visited the Special Counsel’s office to help with the search?” Westerberg asked.
“I didn’t,” Fawcett replied.
“Have you ever been to these offices?” she answered.
“I haven’t,” Fawcett said.
“Do you know where they are? Westerberg continued.
“I don’t,” Fawcett said.
“Do you know if anyone else associated with the Wisconsin Assembly has gone to the offices of the Office of Special Advocates to search for these documents?” Westerberg asked.
“I have no idea,” Fawcett said.
Vos hired Gableman last year to oversee the taxpayer-funded investigation at an estimated cost of $676,000.
Gableman, who worked in an office in Brookfield, argued that his position was akin to that of a prosecutor and that releasing all records related to his case could jeopardize his investigation. So far, judges hearing these public record disputes have viewed the cases differently.
Judge Bailey-Rihn ordered Vos to turn over records related to the case last year. On Monday, she told Fawcett it was Vos’s job to make sure those records were complete and accurate since he hired Gableman as an independent contractor. She noted that early records produced by Gableman did not include communication with Vos’s office.
“Didn’t it strike you as odd that when you looked at those tapes of Mr. Gableman, none of your communications with them during the first few months were on there?” Bailey-Rihn asked Fawcett.
“I’m not part of that office. I don’t really have oversight. I don’t know how they conduct their business,” Fawcett replied.
“But you understand that ultimately it’s up to Mr. Vos and his office to produce the relevant documents, right?” Bailey-Rihn responded.
Bailey-Rihn requested that additional information be provided to attorneys by March 16. She said she would likely issue a written order once this is complete.
In another case that may have developments this week, Judge Frank Remington said Friday he was “unimpressed” by Gableman’s argument that he is conducting a law enforcement operation or that the open record laws do not apply to his work. Remington set a hearing date for Thursday and ordered Gableman to deliver documents for a private review by Jan. 31 ahead of oral arguments on March 8.