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Vos ordered to pay attorney fees in Gableman open records lawsuit

MADISON (WKOW) — A Dane County judge ruled Thursday the Wisconsin Assembly must cover the legal fees in a lawsuit claiming Michael Gableman broke the state's open records laws in his ongoing review of the 2020 presidential election.

Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn issued the decision a little more than one month after Gableman testified in court he'd probably deleted records if "it wasn't gonna be useful to my report."

The case in question is the first of four lawsuits brought by American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. This suit covered Gableman's conduct in July and August 2021, the first two months of the investigation ordered by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

Jack Patterson, a spokesperson for American Oversight, said the group's attorney fees for the case would cost at least $98,000. 

Bailey-Rihn chided Vos and Gableman's handling of records tied to the portion of the investigation covered by the case. She said the attorney fees only mounted due to before Gableman's eventual admission he deleted documents he didn't find useful.

"This took a very long time and it had numerous hearings and depositions, just to get to the bottom of the fact records were destroyed," Bailey-Rihn said.

Since Vos ordered the review, and Assembly Republicans approved it, taxpayers will cover those costs. The fees add to the more than $1 million Gableman's review has already cost, accounting for salaries, equipment, travel and meal expenses, and outside lawyers. 

Vos maintains the cost of Gableman's outside attorney's don't count toward the overall budget, even though the original contract set aside $50,000 in the $676,000 budget for such attorney costs. 

Vos's office did not immediately respond to questions Thursday. 

Bailey-Rihn, who is retiring after Thursday, said she would not charge additional punitive damages, saying such costs would only lead to more hearings and attorney fees that taxpayers would eventually have to pay.

"If I awarded fees and punitive damages against Mr. Vos, he would, in fact, appeal," Bailey-Rihn said. "Causing more time and expense, and more fees to be racked up, ultimately to be paid by the citizens of the state of Wisconsin." 

More at WKOW 27 News


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