Republican Stealth Vote May Have Broken Open Meeting Law
Former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager says Republicans violated the state’s open meeting law by the way it voted on the budget bill.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said at a news conference after the Senate vote that he had received notice of the conference committee meeting in an e-mail at 4:09 p.m. The meeting was at 6 p.m.
“I honestly do not believe this action will stand. We will seek every recourse available. Clearly what they did was improper and illegal,” Barca said.
Lautenschlager isn’t the only one signaling that the law was broken.
Attorney Bob Dreps, an expert in open meetings and open records law, said the state’s open meetings law requires 24 hours notice before any government meeting can be held. It allows for shorter notice for “good cause” only when it would be “impossible” or “impractical” to wait 24 hours. But even in those situations there must be a two-hour notice for an emergency meeting, he said.
Dreps said from what he could see, the Senate Republicans “didn’t give valid notice.”
But will there be any consequences?
Lautenschlager, who is legal counsel for AFSCME Council 24, said that if a meeting is found to be in violation of the open meetings law, the members who participated in the meeting could be fined between $25 and $300. And any action taken at a meeting found to be in violation of the open meetings law “is voidable upon action brought by the attorney general or district attorney,” Lautenschlager added.
But some Democratic staffers suggested that it is rare for the judicial branch to void an action by the Legislature because they are a co-equal branch of government.Click here for reuse options!
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