Vos ordered to turn over deleted emails, texts about 2020 election review

By: - March 11, 2022 3:48 pm

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos | official website

A Dane County Circuit Court judge struck another blow this week to attempts by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to keep records of Gableman’s partisan election review hidden from the public. 

On Thursday, Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ordered Vos to release deleted emails and text messages that fall under one of several open records requests filed by the government watchdog group American Oversight. 

The group has been fighting for months to unveil efforts by Vos and Gableman to review the 2020 election. Earlier this week a different Dane County judge ordered the release of 760 pages of documents created by Gableman’s office. Those records provide little evidence that Gableman and his team have been investigating their conspiratorial claims about the election — which multiple investigations, recounts, audits and reviews have affirmed was won by Joe Biden. 

It’s unclear what is contained in the deleted text messages and emails that Vos will now have to provide to American Oversight, but Bailey-Rihn’s order also includes messages sent from Vos’ private gmail account.

The order for Vos to release his deleted records cuts off a frequent end-run that legislators have made around the state’s public records laws. Like all other state agencies, the Legislature is required to follow open records laws, but it has carved out a loophole for itself by not requiring records to be retained as they are in other parts of state government. 

Last year, Democrats introduced a bill that would close this loophole, and last April, the Wisconsin Examiner reported that it’s common practice for legislators to delete their emails. 

Ronald Stadler, an attorney for Vos, said on Thursday that deleted emails from May to September will be provided to American Oversight. It’s not clear how text messages, which Vos said in a deposition he regularly deletes, will be recovered and provided to the organization. 

“I think these are relevant and I think they should be produced to the extent they can be produced,” Bailey-Rihn said. “I’m going to order the defendant to at least investigate the possibility of producing these deleted text messages and emails. And if they can’t be produced, then I want an expert or somebody to explain to the court why they can’t be.”

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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.