One month after pledge, Evers shows no progress on government transparency
The News: It has been one month since Governor Tony Evers’ administration pledged to “better present accurate information about public records to the public.” Evers’ promise came in response to a WILL report, released in September, that revealed the administration deliberately shuttered an open government website and has failed to re-issue Walker-era executive orders that instituted best practices for government transparency.
The Quote: Executive Vice President CJ Szafir said, “Governor Evers’ administration pledged do things better than the Walker administration when it comes to government transparency. A month later, there is no plan, there is no visible progress, and the public remains in the dark. We’re calling on Governor Evers to keep his promise to open up state government and follow Walker’s best practices.”
WILL Research: WILL submitted identical open records requests to 11 offices and state agencies for tracking documents and records practices. By the end of August 2019, WILL received responses on 9 of the 11 requests and reviewed over 4,000 records. Some of the results:
- Governor Walker’s open government website is no longer active and the public can no longer determine how the Evers administration is practicing government transparency.
- The system to track records requests in Governor Tony Evers’ office is disorganized and dysfunctional.
- Despite only 13 requests, the Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes’ office took, on average, 22 business days to respond to open records requests.
WILL Solutions: Governor Evers should quickly reissue the Walker-era executive orders that define the best practices for open government and revitalize the open government dashboard website.
- If the Evers administration does not act, the state legislature should consider oversight hearings to determine why the Evers administration is taking Wisconsin backwards on transparency.
- The state legislature should require all government offices and agencies to comply with open records laws and create clear and up-to-date tracking systems.
- The state legislature should ensure full transparency by instituting low records request fee policies to ensure that all citizens have access to the inner workings of government.
- “Your Right to Know: Gov. Tony Evers can do better on openness,” Bill Lueders, October 4, 2019
- “Conservative group: Tony Evers ‘disorganized and inconsistent’ in open records practices,” The Cap Times, September 10, 2019
- “Conservative group sues Tony Evers in federal court over media access”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 7, 2019
- “Judge backs conservative group’s suit over Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction records”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 13, 2019