Assembly Speaker Robin Vos won’t make public a legal contract that will cost taxpayers $850,000, despite a state law meant to ensure government records are widely available. Advocates for open records say the Rochester Republican is in the wrong and must release a copy of the contract with the Chicago-based law firm Bartlit Beck. Assembly Republicans recently retained the firm to help defend the state in a long-running lawsuit over legislative district lines they drew in 2011 that have helped them win elections. Taxpayers have already spent more than $2 million in legal fees to draw and defend those maps. “They should just release the record. I mean, it’s clearly a public record and it should be automatic,” said Orville Seymer, field operations director of the conservative Citizens for Responsible Government and a member of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council’s board.
“I think the denial of this contract is clearly illegal and clearly in bad faith,” said Bill Lueders, editor of The Progressive magazine and president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.
“If the public is being expected to pay this bill, it has every right to see the agreement.”
Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer declined to release the contract to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, claiming it was subject to attorney-client privilege. The Assembly has made public its contracts with other firms handling redistricting work and Govs. Scott Walker and Jim Doyle routinely released copies of contracts with law firms they hired.