Dane Co. Judge suggests Gableman’s lack of professionalism may leave questions unanswered

By: - August 16, 2022 6:02 pm

Dane County Judge Frank Remington suggested on Aug. 16 that Michael Gableman’s review of the 2020 presidential election wasn’t “professional” enough to comply with open records requests. (Screenshot | WisEye)

Just days after former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman was fired from his role investigating alleged misconduct during the 2020 presidential election after endorsing the primary opponent of the man who hired him, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Dane County judge suggested that a number of remaining questions surrounding the probe may go unanswered because Gableman was too unprofessional to be held to a higher standard. 

The judge, Frank Remington, made the comments as a number of Democrats across Wisconsin call for an audit of the review — which included threats to jail the Democratic mayors of two of the state’s largest cities, numerous open records lawsuits and multiple findings of contempt of court. 

In a hearing Tuesday morning, attorneys for American Oversight, a government watchdog organization that filed several lawsuits against Gableman and his Office of Special Counsel to force the release of documents related to the review, said there remain a number of gaps in the materials that have been released. 

James Bopp, an attorney for the OSC, said that all documents have been released and therefore Remington’s finding of contempt against Gableman should be lifted. 

“These overbroad statements that ‘everything was produced, we searched everything,’ it’s just almost too broad to be credible given what we know from other sources and given what we know about the Office of Special Counsel’s records procedures,” attorney Christa Westerberg said. 

Remington had similar questions about Gableman’s compliance with several orders to produce documents and agreed with Westerberg that there are “gaps” in the information provided by the OSC — including which electronic devices were searched, how Gableman searched them and if he had access to the private devices of previous OSC employees. 

For example, Gableman stated in an affidavit that he searched a number of electronic devices himself for relevant records, but Remington questioned whether Gableman even had the technical expertise to conduct such a search. 

“Is there a reason he did not enlist the services of individuals with more sophisticated understanding of electronic communications?” Remington asked, pointing out that Gableman did not own a home computer when he started his probe and was working from the local public library.

But, Remington wondered if it was ever going to be possible to get a satisfactory answer to those questions from a former government employee who previously admitted to regularly deleting records. He also suggested that Gableman’s review was just “window dressing” in which a real investigation never occurred so the documents American Oversight is seeking might not have ever existed. 

“Quite plausibly, Mr. Gableman has demonstrated he’s not capable of conducting a professional and thorough investigation, that he deleted records, public records, and what you’re trying to do is superimpose a level of professionalism on an entity and an individual that just doesn’t exist,” Remington said. “All the questions that you asked, even if I sent it back to them for supplemental response again and again and again, we’ll never get to the end of the question because you’re expecting more than what this organization and individual was prepared and able to deliver. Does that mean then you made your point and the answers will be left to the history books to wonder?”

Saying the lawsuit has hit a “dead end,” Remington said he’d issue a written order deciding if Gableman and the OSC have complied with the contempt order and that the case should be closed after that.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.

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