Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Secret Weidner v. Racine case continues through court, could be resolved in October

From The Journal Times.com:

KENOSHA — The open records case involving former Racine alderman Sandy Weidner is continuing to make its way through court - now in Kenosha County Circuit Court.

Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Chad G. Kerkman with Weidner's attorney Mark Hinkston and attorney Michael Cohen, representing the City of Racine, set a briefing and hearing schedule for the remainder of the case that could see the case resolved by early October.

In the first hearing since the Wisconsin Court of Appeals' decision on the case, the attorney representing the city, Michael Cohen, asked to be able to give a Powerpoint presentation on the communications involved and the city's argument that they fall under attorney-client privilege.

He said he plans to also file a motion for the Powerpoint and the presentation to be sealed. Kerkman set a deadline for July 7 to submit the Powerpoint to the court and to present by Aug. 3.

After giving time for Hinkston to respond and then Cohen to respond to Hinkston's response, a hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Oct. 7, where Kerkman plans to issue a decision in the case.

Revolving judges

Kerkman is the fourth judge assigned the case after the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled that an amended petition Weidner filed in February 2018, previously rejected by Racine County Circuit Court Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz, should have been allowed. 

Weidner filed a request to substitute judges when the case was returned to Gasiorkiewicz, who has presided over the case since it was filed on Nov. 29, 2017. The case was then assigned to Racine Circuit Court Judge Michael Piontek on April 30. On May 4, another request on the city’s behalf asked for another substitution.

The case was then sent to Racine County Circuit Court Judge Maureen Martinez on May 5. On May 20, the order for an out-of-county judge was made after it was determined that Martinez “knows or has familiarity with the parties,” the court record states.

How it all began

The civil suit stems from a closed-session meeting in fall 2017, during which Racine City Attorney Scott Letteney showed City Council members a collection of emails that Weidner and two other aldermen had sent to constituents that Letteney thought violated attorney-client privilege.

The emails included correspondence about subjects ranging from the city’s Redevelopment Authority to a case involving a bar’s liquor license. It also included an email sent to a former Journal Times reporter about scheduling for a public meeting, a PowerPoint presentation reportedly given at a public meeting and details about development projects, including the abandoned arena project.

Letteney said he was going to send the emails to the city’s Ethics Board for review. When Weidner requested a copy of the emails, she was denied. She filed a lawsuit shortly after demanding the records.

Gasiorkiewicz sealed case details from public view, something he said was requested by Cohen on behalf of the City before the first hearing.

Weidner spoke to the news media in August 2018 about the case. Due to the case’s seal, she was found guilty of civil contempt of court. Weidner’s attorneys filed a challenge to unseal the case, as well as to the contempt of court conviction, with the Court of Appeals.

In January 2019, the majority of the documents in Weidner’s open-records case were made public — with some redaction.

As of May 1, the City of Racine had already spent more than $129,000 to litigate the open records court case brought by Weidner.

From: https://journaltimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/secret-weidner-v-racine-case-continues-through-court-could-be-resolved-in-october/article_d43eec1b-a655-50f0-acfc-a7b9167074a2.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-1

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