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Update: Drawing District Maps No Different Than Drafting Bills

What we've learned: District maps are like other pieces of legislation and can be hashed out in caucus.

Update, 5:30 pm, Feb. 8: Patch made some inquiries and we learned something about redistricting maps; turns out, drawing the maps and the work that went into them is not different from other pieces of legislation.

What that means is that the work that goes into bills is typically done in closed caucus sessions, and it's not different for the redistricting maps. Once the map bill was introduced, it was then subject to the same approval process as any other bill; a trip through committees, public hearings, debates on the floors of the Senate and Assembly followed by a vote and then possibly a signature by the Governor.

What remains unclear, however, is why the secrecy documents were needed when anything pertaining to attorney-client privilege simply means the attorney can't talk about anything discussed with the client and not what the client can discuss with parties other than the lawyer.

Patch is hoping to continue the conversation with Wanggaard about the documents and has a message into his office with follow-up questions.

Update, 9 am Feb. 8: Both State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) say they signed an agreement to not discuss redistricting maps in public.

Wanggaard was not a member of the redistricting committee but said he signed the agreement to prevent violating open meetings law since he does not believe drawing the maps had to be done in open session.

"I understand the agreement was to protect the attorney-client privilege because drawing the maps did not have to be done in open session," he told Patch on Tues., Feb. 7. "I think we would have violated open meetings law to have public discussions and possibly, even if we didn't mean to, actually have a quorum if there were enough of us there talking."

Vos issued a written statement while he was out of town, "I signed the agreement under the assumption that there may be court cases and attorney-client privilege may be needed."

Patch is waiting for a response from Vos' office about his participation in the redistricting committee.

Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) is shaking his head over it all.

"I don't know which is more outrageous, the fact that we have documents that should be open to the public and we have Republicans signing secrecy oaths to circumvent open meetings law or that taxpayers are paying for the secrecy with their consultants," he told Patch. "Either way, the Wisconsin tradition of open government is seriously damaged by what Republicans have done with this redistrciting case and I hope the federal courts hold them accountable for it."

Patch is researching whether or not open session or properly noticed closed session meetings are the appropriate venue for drawing redistricting maps. We will update the story as we get more information.

Original Story, Feb. 7: If you thought secret pacts were a thing of your childhood, think again. It appears that state Republicans put pen to paper agreeing to not discuss publicly - out of concern they could be called as witnesses during legal challenges - what they talked about while new district maps were being drawn in a Madison attorney's office last year.

States are required to draw new maps every 10 years, based on Census data. Lawsuits in federal court were filed before the maps were even released. Closer to home here in Racine County, the new maps would create two new Senate districts: the first would, roughly, include the City of Racine, parts of Mount Pleasant and Somers and the City of Kenosha while the second would cover the rest of both counties.

In the Assembly, the districts would basically flip, making Cory Mason (D-Racine) the representative for some of the City of Racine, most of Caledonia and some of Mount Pleasant, and all of Raymond and Norway while Robin Vos (R-Rochester) would take most of Mount Pleasant, and all of Sturtevant, Rochester, Burlington and Union Grove.

In a story that first ran in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and was then picked up by The Associated Press, documents have come to light proving that Republican legislators signed an agreement to only discuss points raised in private strategy sessions. Further, the agreement was also signed by Eric McLeod, the same lawyer who gave free legal services to State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman.

McLeod, apparently, provided legal advice while the maps were being drawn in the offices of Michael Best & Friedrich, the firm where McLeod works. Apparently, Republicans thought this would grant them attorney-client privilege, but Voces de la Frontera say legislators broke open meetings law and have filed a complaint in Dane County Court.

Patch is waiting to hear from State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) for comment on how the new district maps were drawn.

We will update this story as we learn more.

James R Hoffa February 07, 2012 at 09:16 PM
What's the basis for the Open Meetings Law violation allegation and why would an advocacy group have standing to sue over such allegation, as shouldn't it be an individual citizen?
James R Hoffa February 07, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Also, I don't know why the 'group of Democratic citizens' were given standing to sue before the maps were even released, as typically there needs to be a concrete injury in order to sue over such matters, as opposed to speculation about what could happen in the future. Those initial suits should have been dismissed and they should have been forced to re-file after the maps were released, just as anyone else's lawsuit suing over the same thing would have been. Why is the Federal District Court in Wisconsin giving the 'group of Democratic citizens' special treatment here? And yet, the Dems are still trying to claim that it's the Repubs that are dividing the state when it's the Dems that are filing lawsuits against the Repubs before their legislation is even released! Seriously???
Racine Progressive February 08, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Repubs promising to hide the truth from the public. Just another day in Fitzwalkerstan.
Kringle Guy February 08, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Wanggaard: I signed a contract to keep my mouth shut in order for the people to be fully informed on what I was doing. WTH?
Lyle Ruble February 08, 2012 at 05:03 PM
It's funny how the state legislature is able to construct their own rules and the state supreme court upholds them. Sounds like tyranny to me. One comment on another thread wrote (paraphrasing); with all the social chaos, why wouldn't they (Republican law makers) do this in private. If it were public it just lead to more demonstrations.
morninmist February 08, 2012 at 05:15 PM
What a bunch of stinkin rotten eggs the WI Republican Legislature has become!! http://rootriversiren.blogspot.com/2012/02/ignore-public-commentsnow-in-blue-ray.html?spref=tw @rootriversiren rootriversiren We found Wanggaard's secret contract: Ignore Public Comments...Now In Blue Ray rootriversiren.blogspot.com/2012/02/ignore… #wiunion #wirecall 2 hours ago via Tweet Button
morninmist February 08, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Just one more reason added to the pot of good reasons to recall these idiots! http://rootriversiren.blogspot.com/2012/02/utter-stupidity-of-van-wanggaard.html?spref=tw ......A Federal Court decided 3 times that no attorney-client privilege existed. On the 3rd try the judges got so pissed they fined the attorney's for being such assholes. Why would ANYONE believe the maps could (or should) be drawn in secret and sign a contract to keep them secret. Wanggaard says he signed a secret contract because their secret meetings could have resulted in being charged with violating the open meetings law (which they are) so they pinkie swore to never talk about it so it would not be a violation of open meetings laws...? Dialing 911. What a completely stoopid thing to say. Worse, he signed his name - making him party to the whole conspiracy. Never before in Wisconsin history has a public official signed a secrecy agreement to shield his activities from the public. Never. We credit Heather Asiyanbi for getting a real comment from Wanggaard instead of just pasting in a prefab statement from a staffer in Vos' office.
James R Hoffa February 08, 2012 at 10:27 PM
@morninmist - Legitimate and reputable news outlets have reported that McLeod was working with the Senators free of charge and that no public monies were paid to him for his services rendered. 'The Siren' appears to disagree with these reports, yet offers no independently confirmable facts to support her position. Why? Also, isn't legislation, for the most part, drafted in private behind closed doors - like Doyle's midnight spending sprees and Obamacare? Where were you guys complaining about any of that? Once the bills are actually drafted, only then are they offered to committee and become subject to public comment, correct? Under the standard you're currently applying to the Wis Repub Senators, neither side could effectively ever caucus in private, as doing so would 'violate the Open Meeting Law,' correct? But in reality, such practice occurs all the time. In fact, I seem to remember a little pow-wow that took place with 14 Wisconsin Democratic State Senators last February down in IL - remember that? 14 Senators of the same party affiliation certainly sounds like caucusing to me, which constitutes a 'meeting,' does it not? So, how exactly was their meeting, that lasted for nearly an entire month, 'open to public,' wherein 'public' means citizens of the state of Wisconsin, when they were holding such meeting in a completely different state? Where's your rant about that? You guys are nothing but double standard applying HYPOCRITES!!!
James R Hoffa February 08, 2012 at 10:29 PM
BTW - The Siren is dead wrong about another thing. The stupidest thing ever said in politics was said by Nancy Pelosi when she said that House Democrats needed to pass Obamacare in order to find out what's in the bill.
mau February 08, 2012 at 10:43 PM
@JRH, good one :)
James R Hoffa February 08, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Clearly, this 'secrecy agreement' is referring to the Republican Senator's caucus meeting over the redistricting legislation. This entire 'story' is nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors non-issue, as caucus meetings have always taken place behind closed doors. But if the new standard is holding caucus meetings in the public, then why didn't the Dem14 hold their month long caucus meeting in IL open to the public? How could it have been held open to the public of Wisconsin when it took place in an entirely different state? I would have liked to observe that month long caucus meeting, but I couldn't find anywhere in Madison where notice of the meeting was posted, yet alone in the time frame required by the statute. Where's the outrage, media coverage, and lawsuits about that little stunt? Someone better call out the National Guard and have the Dem14 placed under arrest for violating the Open Meeting Law.
Lyle Ruble February 08, 2012 at 10:47 PM
@JRH...If there is something illegal here, let the courts sort it out. Nothing to get excited about, so turn the heat down to simmer.
James R Hoffa February 08, 2012 at 10:56 PM
@Lyle - I'll try, but the Wis Dems just never let up with their double standard hypocritical shenanigans, do they? You know as well as anyone that both parties caucus behind closed doors all the time. Now all of sudden the Dems are crying foul on the Repubs for doing it after they had an un-noticed month long private caucus in IL? You've got to be kidding me. I'm getting sick of the hypocrisy!
Lyle Ruble February 08, 2012 at 11:25 PM
@JRH...C'mon, it's politics as usual. You're to young to go on blood pressure meds. The thing I'm upset about today is that at Kathleen Falk has agreed to the public union demands that if she is elected governor she will veto any budget that doesn't include the reinstatement of collect bargaining. Sure, I want to see collective bargaining restored but not because the unions demand it, but that it is the right thing to do. She's confirming all the charges the conservatives have been making and if she is the candidate, Walker win will by a landslide. I think both parties have their heads so far up their backsides, that they need a window in their stomach just so they can see out.
James R Hoffa February 08, 2012 at 11:34 PM
@Lyle - I hear that! Maybe I'll throw my hat into the race as an independent and give them all something to be scared of, but only if you agree to run as my Lieutenant Governor :-) Despite being at an impasse over the collective bargaining issue, we may be able to work something out where everyone would be somewhat happy.
skinnyDUDE February 09, 2012 at 12:10 AM
JRHoffa - The Dems have yet to outline what taking the state back actually means. I think when they do , the residents will say no thank you . Lets keep moving forward. There is no perfect canidate . But the before and after picture is pretty clear. The state is better off now despite all the NOISE. This is not my standard . It will be the standard of the voters. Walker agenda is better than going back .
James R Hoffa February 09, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Dear Patch - If this is a 'newsworthy' story, then where is the story about the Dems nearly month long out-of-state caucus meeting in IL and how that little stunt possibly violated Wisconsin's Open Meeting Law? After all, the Dem Senators confirmed that they were supposedly working on alternative budget legislation while in IL, right? So, don't we have a right to their phone call and meeting records, as there are a number of rumors that they were in constant contact with DC big labor union leaders and even Obama's re-election campaign, remember? Not to mention that they still haven't fully disclosed any documents definitively or conclusively showing who/how they paid for their exile. So, where's the investigative journalist effort at looking into that story, as it's really not much different than the current situation, is it? The Repubs had a secrecy agreement on paper, while the Dems have an oral secrecy agreement between each other. Not very different at all, is it? So will we see both sides investigated by Patch, or just the alleged fishy tactics from the Repubs? Just curious.
mau February 09, 2012 at 08:15 PM
<LIKE> Well said.
Lyle Ruble February 09, 2012 at 08:34 PM
@JRH...Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't legislative caucus meetings exempt from the open meetings law? I can't see that either side did anything illegal.
James R Hoffa February 09, 2012 at 09:28 PM
@Lyle - Exactly right! That's why I don't understand all the fuss over this 'story.' Especially when there wasn't a corresponding similar story regarding the Dem14 that went to IL. Instead, most of the MSM reports about the Dem14's exile in IL painted what they did as being a 'noble' and 'brave' act of 'standing up for the people.' I just don't like the hypocrisy regarding the coverage of the two similar but separate events by the MSM. Case is point is the fact that I can't find a single media investigation of this magnitude scrutinizing what the Dem14 did from the initial perception of wrong doing, such as this investigation is shaping up to be. I'm just looking for a fair and balanced approached to news coverage regarding what to cover vs not cover. That's my gripe.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) February 09, 2012 at 09:41 PM
@JRH - Mount Pleasant-Sturtevant Patch wasn't launched during the protests last winter so I couldn't cover any of it. Perhaps you've noticed that the story is updated to include the facts about maps not being any different from other pieces of legislation? That's not where the focus lies. Instead, I want to understand why agreements were signed supposedly to protect attorney-client privilege when that reason so clearly doesn't hold up. Why did legislators who never part of the discussion in the first place need to sign documents promising they wouldn't talk about anything they weren't even privy to? And yes, I would cover this from the other side had Dems done the same thing. I think you know that already.
James R Hoffa February 09, 2012 at 10:40 PM
@Heather A. - Yes, you are correct - I forgot about Patch's inception date. I apologize for addressing my rant particularly to Patch, when it was really intended for most other MSM outlets. Sorry, sometimes I get ahead of myself without factoring in all variables and I do stand corrected on this point. But even you must admit the similarities in circumstance and the free pass that the media gave to the Dems in such a situation. As to the 'secrecy agreements' to preserve privilege, that's a complete head-scratcher, as you don't need a signed agreement of any kind in order to later assert a/c privilege.
James R Hoffa February 09, 2012 at 10:40 PM
My guess is that the Republicans were worried about litigation over the maps, as Democratic activists had already filed lawsuits against them challenging the maps before they were even introduced to a committee for review. In the face of such litigation, it would be common place practice to seek out guidance from an outside law firm, such as they did. The agreements must have been an idea of the firm's to reiterate and emphasize to the individual Republicans not to discuss what occurred during their caucus with anyone, as they were already under the cloud of filed litigation on matter. Again that's a par for the course and common sense response, as when faced with a lawsuit, the advice is always not to discuss anything on topic with anyone without counsel being present. Given that the firm was working with a large group of people, thus increasing the possibility that someone could end up speaking when not being advised to do so, they decided to put it on paper to remind and enforce the importance of staying quit until the litigation had been resolved. So again, where's the big deal?
skinnyDUDE February 09, 2012 at 11:35 PM
The conservatives didn't do anything illegal . It seems quite smart. It's amazing when representatives of the state flea and don't do their jobs the lib's support them . The party in power on state and national levels always does the redistricting. Never heard you whine when the DEMS do it. So stop crying already.You look ridiculous . I love the fact that the party is forward thinking and dotting the I and crossing the T . I love it when a plan comes together! In other news. Kathleen Falk already stated she would not pass a budget unless it returns the collective bargaining . That wont Poll very well . More bullying? But the good news under that scenario is they work off the existing Walker budget for years :) But the better news is it almost guarantees she wont win .
Frances Martin March 23, 2012 at 12:50 PM
It seems to me that part of the current political climate is the notion that whatever your "chosen side" does, you'll defend, and whatever the other side does, you'll attack--e.g. attack Doyle for using tobacco settlement money to balance the budget, defend Walker for doing the same thing with the mortgage settlement funds. ( I think they were both wrong.) IMHO We'd be better off as citizens if we were all keeping a critical eye on all the pols, local and national, both parties, my rather than acting as cheerleaders for one side or another.

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