After a five-year battle to obtain public records from the City of Racine, a former Racine Alderman is about to have them. It was a long, expensive Journey.
On August 22, 2017, longtime Alderman Sandy Weidner was in a closed session with other members of the Racine City Council. It is a legal way to handle government business in secret. It is only allowed under very few circumstances. In this meeting, there were emails and other documents shown to the council committee. After the meeting, Weidner asked City Attorney Scott Letteney to give her some of the documents. For more than three months, she was ignored. She filed a lawsuit to ask a judge to order the release of the documents. A couple days after, Letteney provided the documents to all Aldermen. Weidner decided that she wanted to ask a judge for more documents than she previously asked for. Under Wisconsin statute §802.09(1), a lawsuit can be amended once within 90 days without permission from the Judge. She filed an amended complaint.
Racine Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz, who is considered by most attorneys we spoke to, to be most unprofessional, rude, impatient, grouchy and terrible judge in the County, dismissed the complaint, knowing that he was violating the law. He also ordered the case to be sealed and kept most court activity secret and out of the public and media’s view. If you have a minute please read this motion from an attorney named Chris Carson who told KCE the following of Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz:
“I am bound to express my concern, which I can say is shared by the entire Racine County Bar, of the increasingly erratic behaviors Judge Gasorkiewicz is displaying.”
Weidner appealed Gasiorkiewicz’s unlawful dismissal of the lawsuit. Appellate court Judges Reilly, Gundrum and Brash said:
“We agree with Weidner that the circuit court Judge (Gasiorkiewicz) erred in refusing to accept her amended petition for mandamus.”
The appellate court reversed Gasiorkiewicz’s decision. Weidner then asked for a new judge. The other Racine Judges recused themselves so it came to Kenosha to Judge Chad Kerkman.
Kerkman is the Kenosha equivalent to Gasiorkiewicz. He is the most unprofessional, rude, impatient, grouchy and terrible judge in the County. He fines litigants without attorneys for minor procedural mistakes and lectures folks all day long. Lawyers have to walk on eggshells. He is the judge that is bro’s with T. Clair Binger, the failed Rittenhouse Prosecutor. Here is one minor example of his short temper:
Judge Kerkman dismissed the case and ruled that Weidner couldn’t have the public records. As he does often, he got angry during the hearing and didn’t let Weidner’s attorney finish sentences and adjourned the hearing. Weidner went back to the court of appeals. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed Kerkman’s decision as they often do. (Kerkman was told to hold a new trial for convicted murderer Mark Jensen. Instead of having a new trial, Kerkman found Jensen guilty without a trial. He knew this was illegal, but didn’t care. He was overruled by a higher court with more integrity.) Returning to the Weidner case, Appellate Court Judges Gundrum, Grogan, and Kornblum told Kerkman he made a mistake and ruled that Weidner will be given the public documents. Victory is within Weidner’s grasp.
Weidner asked for a new judge and was assigned Judge David Wilk, an even tempered, fair judge, according to many Kenosha lawyers. Weidner was in court today and the law firm out of Milwaukee representing the City of Racine appeared by phone. The City of Racine has paid this firm more than $200,000 and counting, according to the Journal Times. What’s left to decide? The most important point that Judge Wilk will have to decide is how much money the City of Racine will have to hand over to Weidner. The statute allows for “reasonable attorneys fees” when one wins a public records case. The two lawyers will probably not agree and the Judge will have to decide what a reasonable amount is for a five-year battle. Ultimately, the Racine taxpayers will have to pay for the decisions of the Racine City Attorney Scott Letteney and Mayor Cory Mason’s attempt to cover up alleged misconduct.
In court today were many supporters of Weidner including Racine’s Honest, Open, and Transparent Government (H.O.T.) President Harry Wait, activists Jim Spodick, Patrick Fagan and Jim McClain.