GAB Reverses Itself on Petitions as Public Record
Brian Sikma, Communications Director
MILWAUKEE – Last night and this morning several news outlets including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board has decided to withhold the online publication of recall petitions submitted to start a recall of Governor Scott Walker. According to GAB spokesman Reid Magney, the decision to not publish the petitions as part of the public record came after the board decided to heed concerns over privacy issues. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin raised privacy concerns nearly a week ago saying domestic abuse victims and others could be vulnerable if their information was found on a recall petition.
In November, Media Trackers first warned that some could seek to use personal information found on recall petitions to harm or harass individuals. At the time Reid Magney on behalf of the Government Accountability Board agreed that the information found on petitions was public, but then told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact that there are no privacy concerns that arise with publishing that information.
Brian Sikma, communications director for Media Trackers, responded to these developments with the following statement:
“When Media Trackers raised privacy concerns, the GAB said that it was not a serious issue. Now the ACLU has echoed our concerns, and the GAB has decided to halt the release of all recall petition information. It would be appropriate for the GAB to become more consistent in its statements and actions. Public inconsistencies and discrepancies on the part of the GAB hurts public confidence in the recall and election process in our state. The GAB needs to clarify something: Was it wrong when it dismissed privacy issues as a concern back in November, or is it wrong in listening to similar privacy concerns now?
“Wisconsinites expect the GAB to be impartial and fair, but in reversing itself the GAB has raised questions about its ability to achieve its mission consistently without engaging in knee jerk reactions to legitimate concerns raised by organizations across the ideological spectrum.”