GOP lawmaker preparing to sue Secretary of State Doug La Follette for not sending paperwork
MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- A top Republican is giving Secretary of State Doug La Follette a final warning before seeking legal action next month over not sending paperwork to Congress and other states related to amending the U.S. Constitution.
At issue is Assembly Joint Resolution 9 both the Assembly and Senate approved in January, which signals support for assembling a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution related to federal spending. In order for that to occur, 34 state legislatures have to approve a similar measure.
By law, Secretary of State Doug La Follette must process and send those documents to Congress and other states for final approval, but Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) said La Follette has failed to do so and is now threatening to sue him.
"He has until August 1 to get his job done then we'll start legal action against him," Bernier said during a press conference at the Capitol.
After unanswered emails and calls whether they've sent the paperwork, Bernier said she's ready to pursue legal action and is "fed up" with La Follette.
The resolution landed on Secretary of State Doug La Follette's desk on March 22. In February, Bernier's office first contacted La Follette for an update. The requests continued in March, May and June, according to emails.
La Follette did not respond or explain why the documents weren't mailed.
In an interview, La Follette said he had intentions of sending the documents, but didn’t because his office didn't have enough money to buy envelopes to mail them.
"I'm fed up with Republicans cutting the budget, cutting the staff and then complaining we don't get things done," La Follette said. "Whenever they want to make news they say they are going to sue somebody."
This month his office received more funding and has plans to send them out soon, according to La Follette.
In response to facing possible legal action, La Follette called the move "ridiculous." The 82-year-old said he contacted the Wisconsin Department of Justice to check if there was a deadline to send the paperwork to Congress and other states.
La Follette said the DOJ told him there wasn't a date it had to be done by. A spokesman for the DOJ did not immediately return a request to confirm.
The secretary of state office has been stripped of many duties over the last several years by lawmakers, but a main responsibility is authenticating resolutions and bills passed by the Legislature.
La Follette, who recently came back from a month-long trip to Africa, said if he had more funding and staff members he could "do his job."
On May 3, Bernier's Chief of Staff Michael Luckey sent La Follette and his staff a list of 113 names and addresses the paperwork needed to be mailed to and offered to help with the task, according to an email.
"He can complain about the resources, but if he worked 40 hours a week he could get it done," said Bernier.
State Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) said he's tired of La Follette's excuses.
"This is unacceptable behavior," said Knodl, who joined Bernier at the press conference. "If this doesn't stop and this is what people are getting from their elected officials they should vote them out of office."
La Follette's primary opponent Dane County Democratic Party Chair Alexia Sabor criticized him for not completing a "simple task that is statutorily required."
"It's time for a change," Sabor said in a statement.
The three Republicans running for secretary of state include State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton), Justin Schmidka and Jay Schroeder.
La Follette is seeking his 11th term and if he wins, Bernier said she's hoping to find a way to remove him from office.
"If he's elected again we're going to see how we can do that," said Bernier.