Someone in the Evers Administration recorded a conversation between the governor and top Republican legislative leaders, but Governor Tony Evers has yet to hold anyone accountable for it.
Republicans are comparing the breach of trust with the secret recordings to Richard Nixon’s White House tapes. Now prominent Wisconsin Democrats are criticizing the Evers Administration, too.
“It certainly doesn’t help things,” said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) in a interview by Josh Dukelow on WHBY on Thursday. “This is not acceptable. This is not how we do things. To be bush league and amateur to have something like that happen and I do not condone that in any way.”
The recorded telephone conference call was between Evers, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the Evers Administration’s attempt to extend the Coronavirus “Safer at Home” order. Also joining the call to discuss the possibility of a new “Safer at Home” rule receiving legislative approval were Evers’ Chief of Staff Maggie Gau and legal counsel Ryan Nilsesteun.
The recording was uncovered by an open records request from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Hintz’s Democratic colleague state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) also criticized the Evers Administration and called for action to be taken.
“…then whoever that person is should be fired immediately,” Brostoff posted on Twitter. “I don’t give a damn about what letter is next to someone’s name, this is unacceptable.”
When it comes to recording phone conversations, Wisconsin is a “one party” consent state. This means as long as one participant in the call gives consent to have the conversation recorded, the recording is legal. However, if someone other than a participant in the conversation records the call, then a crime has been committed.
Evers’ spokesman Melissa Baldauff told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a statement, “The recording was intended for internal use only to inform detailed note taking and planning next steps.”
However, Evers himself denied he had any knowledge that the phone conversation was being recorded. When Nilsesteun was asked by the media about the recording, Evers’ legal counsel would only say “staff” authorized the recording, but would not say who or even if he was the one responsible.