July 18, 2005
810 North Barstow Street
Waukesha, WI 53186
I am contacting you relative to an editorial that your paper ran relative to my denial of a request for prosecution for an alleged violation of the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law by the Waukesha School Board. Your opinion in the headlines has very little to do with the actual facts of that case. Obviously, you must not have read the material that was submitted to me by Ms. Lufter, because if you did you would realize that the information that was submitted was woefully insufficient to justify any allegation of an open meetings violation. When a complaint is filed for an open meetings or open records violation I make my decision based upon the materials supplied. The materials supplied by Ms. Lufter did not even demonstrate that any of the School Board members were talking to one another. In essence, Ms. Lufter wanted an open meetings violation complaint filed because of an e-mail that had been sent between one or two board members discussing some of the tactics that were being utilized by the Waukesha Taxpayers League relative to the referendum. In fact, at best the materials supplied by Ms. Lufter showed that Superintendent David Schmidt was discussing some of the tactics with one board member and was expressing his concern or displeasure relative to those tactics.
Your editorial and your article gives the “impression” to your readers that members of the School Board were exchanging a variety of e-mails discussing school district business and coming to conclusions or making decisions amongst themselves in the e-mails that were being sent back and forth. You know that is not the case. If you, at least, would have read the materials submitted to me by Ms. Lufter you would have realized that was not the case. This was not even a close call. This office has been more aggressive than the Attorney General’s office has ever been as it relates to open meetings and open records violations. I spend more time carefully reviewing and reading open meetings and open records requests than any District Attorney in the entire state. In fact, I have launched one of the few prosecutions for open meetings and open records violations of any District Attorney. In addition, this office, in conjunction with a local law firm, holds an Open Meetings/Open Records Forum every year to make sure our local officials are up to speed on the laws as it relates to open meetings and open records.
Your editorial is disappointing because it is not reflective of the truth. We are very aggressive on open meeting violations and will continue to do so. Before you launch into an editorial tirade you should take the time to review the material that was submitted to me before you criticize my decision. I can’t imagine any individual coming to any other conclusion after reviewing the material submitted to me by Ms. Lufter. Perhaps, if the materials submitted were more in-depth and more complete I might have come to a different conclusion. When you come to the conclusion that it appears that the law has been broken, I challenge you to justify that to your readers. At best, you can find in this case that the Superintendent and, perhaps, one School Board member were discussing tactics utilized by the Waukesha Taxpayers League. I am also offended by Ms. Lufter’s statement that I have a tendency to align myself with the School District. That is absolutely false. In fact, based on some e-mails I have read in another investigation from the School District, the School District apparently feels I align myself with entities outside the School District and have “no soft spot” in my heart for the School District.
If you or Ms. Lufter feels strongly on this issue, you have the ability to bring a lawsuit on your own behalf in the name of the State of Wisconsin. If you feel so strongly about this (and your paper is such an advocate for open government) why don’t you utilize that in this particular case and bring this matter to the attention of the Circuit Court? The reason you can’t do that is you know, as well as I do, that the evidence will not sustain the violation. Nonetheless, I spend a great deal of my valuable time investigating these matters. I will continue to do so. I would hope in the future you might take a few moments to review the facts and report them fairly and accurately. You owe that much to the public. I certainly think you owe that much to local officials, such as myself. In addition, your comment giving credit to Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager is laughable. The Office of the Attorney General has done nothing to enforce the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. In fact, I have taken cases back from the Attorney General’s Office because of the inaction that has occurred in that particular office. I defy you to point to one prosecution that the Attorney General’s office has filed for an open meetings violation during the tenure of our current Attorney General. Our current Attorney General has done little to enhance open government. While one can talk tough, when it comes to actually acting and following through, my record speaks for itself.
Very truly yours,
Paul E. Bucher