Lawsuit: Former Wisconsin secretary of state used Hotmail for official business

The emails included an official signature block from La Follette.
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Wisconsin secretary of state is being asked to hold onto emails that its former secretary of state sent and received conducting official business from a Hotmail account.

Former Secretary of State Douglas La Follette used the account to send emails related to the state budget with current Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski.

The emails included an official signature block from La Follette.

The emails were discovered following a lawsuit and records request from the Institute for Reforming Government, which said it was looking into the reasoning behind La Follette leaving his office after holding it from 1983 to 2023, retiring just two months into his term and being replaced by Godlewski.

Attorneys from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty are representing IRG.

Godlewski did not respond for 189 days after IRG’s initial request and the records were only sent after WILL filed the lawsuit, showing the private email communications between La Follette and Godlewski.

“The public records statutes ensure transparency and openness in government,” WILL Associate Counsel Skylar Croy said. “When state officials use personal e-mail accounts to conduct state business, those records must be turned over upon request as soon as practicable and without delay. Requesters cannot be left hanging for months or years wondering when their request will be fulfilled. This filing seeks to remedy these wrongs.”

Godlewski initially claimed to IRG she did not have any responsive records to the group’s request but later sent the emails involving La Follette’s Hotmail account.

WILL has asked the circuit court in Waukesha County to declare emails from the Hotmail account involving public business to be declared public records while also granting WILL attorneys’ fees and costs.