Appellate Court Rules Against State Senator over Releasing Names

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by David Ade

 MADISON -- For three years, State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) has refused to turn over contact information of the people who emailed him about Act 10.

Monday, the District 2 Court of Appeals out of Waukesha ruled Erpenbach needs to turn over those names under Wisconsin open records law.

The content of the emails shown, but names and email addresses blacked out. Erpenbach says that's always been his policy to protect the people who email him.

"A person's personally identifiable information has never been an issue with the media before, but it is with the Republican MacIver Institute because they're after public employees." Erpenbach said.

The institute says they want to know how many state workers lobbied Erpenbach while at work.

"We think that if you're using public resources on public time, that's something that taxpayers have a right to know about." said spokesman Nick Novak.

Erpenbach says the appellate court decision ruling he needs to make names and email addresses public sets a dangerous precedent, and will make people not want to contact their elected officials.

"Their friends, their family, their neighbors will all know that they sent me an email on this particular issue and here are their thoughts on them good or bad." Erpenbach said.

Novak says the decision sets a precedent for more transparency.

"Going forward, legislators cannot pick and choose what they deem is public and what is not public. It shouldn't be up to the legislators.”

Senator Erpenbach says so far he's spent 170-thousand dollars of taxpayer money on legal fees fighting to keep constituents names private.

He says he went with a private law firm because the state's Attorney General told him he didn't have a case.

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