A pleading filed yesterday by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne makes repeated references to the arguments of Wisconsin Secretary of State Douglas La Follette.
"The Secretary of State's position must mean that ... there is no circumstance under which a district attorney or the Attorney General could obtain an order voiding" legislation passed in violation of the state's Open Meetings Law, the filing (PDF) states. It also says "the Secretary of State challenges the District Attorney's authority to invoke constitutional provisions in support of his Open Meetings Law action."
But La Follette says he was never consulted and does not agree with the arguments being advanced on his behalf. "It's very frustrating."
At issue is Ozanne's challenge of the Legislature's hasty passage on March 9 of a trimmed-down version of Gov. Scott Walker's "budget repair bill," which would gut the collective bargaining rights of most public employees, among other major changes. Ozanne sued to block passage, arguing that the lack of proper advance notice violated the Open Meetings Law.
Last Friday, Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi agreed, and issued a temporary restraining order blocking publication of the bill, a function performed by La Follette's office. The state Attorney General's Office promptly appealed to a state appellate court, arguing that Sumi had no such authority. Its pleading asserts that "Secretary La Follette respectfully requests" an order overturning Sumi's ruling.
The state, arguing the Secretary of State's case, says the courts have no authority to impose such a remedy. But La Follette, a Democrat who has held the office for most of the last three decades, says, "I was not consulted about it and I was told I have no right to object. They can represent me whether I like it or not."
La Follette says he was present in court last Friday when Judge Sumi heard the arguments that are now being made in his name, and agrees with her decision to reject them.
"I think it was very proper for the judge to stop this thing," La Follette tells Isthmus. "To me, it made sense. The Open Meetings Law is sacrosanct."
La Follette says he heard from the AG's office yesterday, after he voiced similar concerns, and was told the office is under no obligation to consult him before representing his position; but it did apologize for the lapse and promised better communication.
What La Follette would really like is "some independent representation" so that the arguments being made in his name are ones he agrees with. But he says he was told this is not an option: "Apparently, I'm not allowed to do that."