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EXCLUSIVE: DA questions John Doe evidence-gathering methods

By   /   August 17, 2012  /   9 Comments

By M.D. Kittle Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – A southeast Wisconsin district attorney tells Wisconsin Reporter that a Milwaukee County assistant DA’s seemingly private request for public records in the Gov. Scott Walker-related John Doe investigation was “rather unusual” and “odd.”

In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story this week reporting that the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s super-secret investigation, the piece notes the prosecutor sought state records apparently using his private email account.

That information isn’t apparent until some 15 paragraphs into the story, but it does report that Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney David Robles made the open records request on June 18 without using official DA office letterhead. Robles also did not provide his job title, the story noted.

“His requests also provide what appears to be a private email account. He did list his official work address and phone number on the letters,” wrote Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Jason Stein, adding that Robles repeatedly refused to comment on the matter.

Milwaukee Journal investigative reporter Daniel Bice, who has done the lion’s share of the paper’s reporting on the probe, contributed to the story.

The DA’s office didn’t return Wisconsin Reporter’s request for comment either.

Associated Press versions of the story published in newspapers around the state and in publications elsewhere did not note Robles’ method of obtaining the information.

The brunt of the story was about how Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm’s two-year-plus John Doe investigation into former aides of the governor, mostly when he was Milwaukee County executive, has expanded into state government.

Records obtained by the newspaper “show that a Milwaukee County prosecutor sought personnel records from Walker’s office and another state agency in June and then met with a top state lawyer the next day.”

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel tells Wisconsin Reporter that he finds the Milwaukee County prosecutor’s methods “rather unusual.”

“If a DA is looking for information from a government body, you don’t have to make an open records request. We subpoena or ask for it. Government agencies really don’t want to hide things from John Doe investigation,” Schimel said.

There are penalties for failing to hand over information in the secret probes that place strict gag orders on those called to testify or provide information.

“It does strike me as odd to do it in a way that doesn’t make this seem like an official act,” Schimel added. “I would announce who I am.”

The district attorney, like anyone outside the probe’s cone of silence, said he isn’t privy to the reasons and motivations surrounding the records requests. He offered that Robles could have filed the request privately to avoid media exposure, a way to prevent a subject who may be “corrupt or might have something to hide” from learning of the request.

“I do not know the circumstances. It could be a legitimate reason to approach something under cover, but it is unusual” Schimel said.

The Waukesha County district attorney is a Republican.

Chisholm is a Democrat. Walker supporters have accused the Milwaukee County DA of conducting nothing more than an extended fishing expedition.

The probe has led to criminal charges against four former Walker aides or appointees in Milwaukee County. Former aide Darlene Wink pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts for campaigning on taxpayer time. Three others have been charged with felonies but have pleaded not-guilty.

Walker has not been accused of any wrong-doing.

The governor told the Associated Press that he’s not concerned about the expanded investigation, and that it has not been a distraction.

“We’re focused on jobs. We’re focused on getting ready for the next budget,” the governor said, as quoted in the Journal Sentinel. “It really hasn’t been a factor.”

Whether Robels is in full compliance with attorney ethics codes is unclear.

Keith Sellen, director of the state Office of Lawyer Regulation, declined to comment on the matter saying it’s the kind of situation that could come to his office for review.

The Wisconsin District Attorney’s Association could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon. The association aims to promote professionalism in Wisconsin’s prosecutors through education, information, liaison and informal interaction, according to its website.

Schimel, Waukesha County DA since 2006, said he has been involved in John Doe probes in his legal tenure but never has he sought information on a private account or without fully identifying his position.

“I don’t do official work with my home email. I don’t do official work anonymously,” he said.

Wisconsin Reporter has an open records request filed with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office seeking all information related to the probe.

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

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  • Brad

    So the fishing trip has been extended, at taxpayer expense of course.

  • Wisconsinite

    It should be obvious by now now that there is nothing to find here. If there was, they would have found it before the recall election. Waste of money (ours, of course).

  • Jay Ross

    Brad,

    You should know by now that anything done in Milwaukee County is always done in an odd manor. The Milwaukee County officials don’t have to answer to anybody. i.e. Abele on the firing of Black, the parks director, two raises in 2011, no job in 2012, ” I don’t have to give a reason for her dismissal”. I’m glad to be in Waukesha County, where we all know what’s going on, because the people that work for us, like you, are not on ego trips. Rock on Brother!

    J.R.

  • http://badgerblogger.com Roland Melnick

    Did ADA Robles ask for authorization to get these records from the John Doe presiding judge? If he did, he must have been denied and his ORR is an end-run around due process. If he didn’t, why not? Did Robles ask DA Chisholm for permission to go after these records only to be turned down?

  • Jimmy Jam

    Walker is so frickin’ guilty. Most close to him have already been found guilty or are under indictment or have been given immunity. You cannot tell me with a straight face that he had an illegal network set up in a closet right outside his office door and he didn’t know about it. That is only one of many illegal doings. The only reason it has dragged on because like any guilty criminal he is trying to cover his tracks.

    Yes the fishing trip has been extended. Walker continues on that trip spending our money while fishing for a bigger and higher paying job. We mean nothing to him you do realize don’t you?

  • Patient one

    Jimmy Jam you are just an idiot. Right, wrong or indifferent, you apparently have issue with leadership. You really think with all the power libs have with judges, media, etc., they didn’t find anything?

  • Animal

    Jimmy Jam you sir are an idiot. Keep hating on our governor if that makes you feel good about yourself. Meanwhile the rest of us will keep working and trying to make Wisconsin a better place to live for everyone. Your either part of the solution or you ARE the PROBLEM. Which are you?

  • Remnar

    The Milwaukee dems. have been at it for 22 months. Will they ever stop and spend time on real and substantial issues? Have they no shame? Is it any wonder that this State/Country is so Polarized?

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the Democrats would offer an alternative rather than just throw out lies and accuaziations?

    When will they realize that thier behavior diminishes thier relavance……

  • Sophiepin

    Democrats have tried several times in the past 3 months to get Republicans to discuss significant legislation related to jobs and jobs training. The answer is always “no”. How unfortunate that those wealthy “job creators” have not used the tax breaks to jump start our state economy. Where are the 250,000 good paying jobs promised by Scott Walker? Last count was a net gain of 24,000 jobs. So we can watch for over 225,000 new, good paying jobs within the next twenty-six months, right? I can hardly wait!