Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Schimel declines to fine Patton

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Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel has declined to fine Alderman Roger Patton for deleting his city-related email. In a letter to me, Schimel wrote,

I am writing to advise you that I have now concluded the investigation. Although I conclude that Alderman Patton did fail to meet the requirements of the Public Records Law, for the reasons I will set forth below, I am not going to issue a forfeiture charge.

He explained:

I have never received any prior complaint relating to Alderman Patton violating any of the laws relating to public officials. Alderman Patton offers an explanation for his failure to comply with the law that demonstrates that his intent was not to deceive or conceal information from the public. He has expressed that he now has a clear understanding of his obligations and has put in place appropriate remedial steps. Based upon the information you obtained from other public officials, I do not see any basis to conclude that Alderman Patton has actually hidden any information that was not obtainable from another source. I realize that we cannot know this with certainty and that it is important to be able to cross reference multiple sources to make sure that government officials are being forthcoming with information. Still, I would be more concerned if there were some specific documents that were lost forever as a result of Alderman Patton’s actions. That does not appear to be the case.

Given all of the circumstances, I am going to resolve this by way of a written warning to Alderman Patton, as opposed to the issuance of any forfeiture charge.

Part of me has been saying I wouldn’t know what to do with Patton. But having given the matter some thought, I disagree with the district attorney. Some fine was merited, especially when you consider that any email correspondence from Patton’s constituents was lost. It also sets a bad precedent.

However, at this point I don’t think the hapless old man excuse is going to sit well with the alderman’s constituents.

Update: I was asked about the amount of the potential fine:

(3) Any person who violates this section shall, in addition to any other liability or penalty, civil or criminal, forfeit not less than $25 nor more than $2,000; such forfeiture to be enforced by a civil action on behalf of, and the proceeds to be paid into the treasury of the state, municipality, or district, as the case may be.

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