At first glance, Dane County Supv. Ashok Kumar's recent records request of Corporation Counsel Marcia MacKenzie seemed audaciously overbroad: He sought "all correspondence" between her office and that of County Exec Kathleen Falk's regarding "the legality or illegality of drafting into ordinance or resolution any issue" discussed by the County Board, going back to mid-2006.
MacKenzie's prompt reply was a shocker: "There are no documents, electronic or other correspondence responsive to your requests."
"There's no way that's possible," says Kumar, who thinks the corporation counsel's office often takes direction from Falk. "It's pretty well known that things get stopped at the legal level if the county exec is against it."
But MacKenzie insists her office "did a thorough search" and failed to find any such records. "We don't communicate with [Falk's office] about that kind of stuff." Passing ordinances, she says, is a legislative function, and Falk serves an executive one.
County Supv . Kyle Richmond leaves open the possibility that Kumar's request was too narrowly interpreted. But he'd "be surprised if Marcia wasn't discussing her workload and priorities with the county exec's office," even if there's no paper trail.
But MacKenzie says she's more insulated, and harder to fire, than other department heads. That allows her office to remain "a neutral party" on the issues it weighs in on. And, of course, there are no records to disprove it.