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  • Writer's pictureAletheia

Help Us "Unmask" Local Officials

Dane Undivided needs your help!


And we’re willing to give you something valuable in exchange. Read on...


If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know that our tipsters have used open records requests (aka ORRs) to obtain much of the material we’ve used to expose violation of public trust here in Dane County (e.g., this, this, this, and this) and the disturbing mindset of our officials. ORRs are easy to do, and they're a great way to get information from government officials and agencies that, frequently, they would prefer you not see or possess.


Despite the fact that the mask order has now become so politically toxic that even the bitter-enders at Public Health of Madison & Dane County have finally seen the handwriting on the wall, Dane Undivided will not now sit down and shut up. We’re not going to let so much “water” rush by under the bridge unremarked or unchallenged. We intend to press for accountability and political consequences for what’s been done to all of us over the past two years—from the lies told to us and the decimation of our constitutional and civil rights to the division of our community and the destruction of our jobs and businesses.


We sincerely hope you are in the same determined mindset, and that you’ll partner with us in both spirit and action.


So, what are we asking you to do?


Well...we have a MYSTERY on our hands. We'd love your gracious assistance in solving it.



THE BACKSTORY

You all remember RES-157, right? It was County Supervisor Jeff Weigand’s (Dist 20, Marshall) respectfully submitted request that Janel Heinrich pull back her then most recent mask order, hold hearings on the matter, and try to gain the consent of the governed before issuing any further orders. You can refresh yourself on some of the resolution's history here and here.


In the lead up to the January 6th Dane County Board of Supervisors vote on RES-157, Supervisor Patrick Miles (Dist 34, McFarland and Town of Dunn) and—according to him—"a few other supervisors" were quite anxious about rising public sentiment against the perpetual mask orders being issued by Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County.


Supervisor Miles and company were particularly concerned that such sentiment would visibly and audibly outstrip pro-mask sentiment during public comment the board had agreed to hear on RES-157.


Moreover, this possibility so troubled Supervisor Miles and "a few other supervisors" that they set about actively RECRUITING pro-mask advocates to register and speak at the January 6th meeting in hopes of ensuring the optics they preferred—that Dane County citizens overwhelmingly still loved the mask.


We know Miles pored through emails that he and/or all supervisors had previously received in opposition to RES-157 and subsequently reached out to those senders he believed could best help boost the “SCIENCE!” and legitimacy of the mask order, preferably by speaking against the resolution at the January 6th meeting or at least registering in opposition.


How do we know this recruiting effort occurred…?


Through a tip we got from a citizen who’d done an open records request, of course!


We’ve opted not to share the original constituent emails or any replies those individuals made to Supervisor Miles’ requests. We’re interested in Miles’ actions, after all, not theirs. But we have provided, below, two of several examples of the language Miles sent to various people. In all cases, his recruiting efforts included language along the following lines:


We are receiving a fair amount of email from people who share your opposition to RES 157. Unfortunately, I think there are a greater number of people writing in support of it; though I think that they are likely a vocal minority. Given the credibility of your work, I am writing to ask if you would take the opportunity to voice support of Madison & Dane County Public Health at the County Board meeting this Thursday by registering in opposition to the resolution. My apologies if you’ve already received a similar request and instructions on registering as I and a few other Supervisors are reaching out to people.


Supervisor Miles even provided each potential recruit handy-dandy step-by-step registration instructions and told them how much their assistance would be appreciated.


Here's an image of an email Miles sent to one hoped-for recruit—a virologist:



And here's an image of an email he sent to another potential recruit—a nurse:



Now…between 50 and 60 people registered to speak on RES-157 at the January 6th meeting, with public comment lasting late into the evening. Curiously, however—despite 699 people registering IN FAVOR of the resolution at the December 1st Board of Health meeting just a month before (with only one person registered against) and more than 130 people traveling all the way out to the Town of Berry on December 13th to register their opposition to the mask order at an unofficial hearing held by Supervisor Weigand and Supervisor Tim Rockwell (Dist 19, Sun Prairie)—the first two hours of public comment were taken up almost entirely by a glut of registrants AGAINST RES-157. That glut, by the way, included a suspiciously high number of SEIU and AFSCME members.


So obvious was this imbalance that Board Chair Analiese Eicher (Dist 3, Madison) finally felt uncomfortable enough about likely public perception to exclaim on the matter and assert that registrants were simply being called to speak in the order in which they’d registered. I’ll leave it to you to weigh the believability of her assertion, now that you know Supervisor Miles and "a few other supervisors" were working to seed the deck of public comment. Also consider that the press tends to stay for only a short time at public meetings meetings, and that leadership would certainly have wanted media leaving with the “correct” perception.


Those speaking and registering against the resolution on January 6th did indeed end up significantly outnumbering those in favor. Thus, all but four supervisors had the cover they needed to vote RES-157 down, just as most of them had already telegraphed they would do. Having superficially done their duty by permitting the public comment the Board of Health had earlier quashed, the board could now rest easy, with everything looking—on the night of their big vote—as though people who wanted the mask order gone were just a noisy handful of lunatic fringe.


But, again, that picture doesn’t jibe with what we already know.


Don’t get me wrong. More people should have both registered and spoken in favor of RES-157 on January 6th. It’s regrettable that, for whatever reason, most of the people who'd shown up to previous meetings didn’t do likewise that night. But in light of everything else that had occurred, something sure smelled fishy about the way things went down on the 6th...especially that glut of people speaking against RES-157 in the first couple of hours.


And then we got the tip about Supervisor Miles…and we couldn’t help but wonder which other supervisors were working with him to ensure the board could vote RES-157 down in political comfort and ease? Just how many supervisors had contributed to that outcome? And how extensive were their efforts?


We suspect there’s a bigger story to tell, here.


Will you help us gather the information we need to know for sure…? The material that could help us tell that story...?


THE ORR LANGUAGE WE RECOMMEND

Cut and paste into an email, making sure to fill in the appropriate email address for your supervisor:


Dear Mr. Lowndes,


Under Chapter 19 of the Wisconsin State Statutes, I am requesting the following information:


1. All email correspondence, plus attachments, sent or received from the email account [SUPERVISOR’S EMAIL ADDRESS] between Dec 2, 2021 and January 6, 2022 and including any of the following words or phrases, whether singly or in some combination:

  • “RES-157" OR “RES 157”

  • “public comment”

  • “mask order”

  • “mask mandate”

  • “emergency order”

  • “face covering order”

  • “public health”

  • “vocal minority”

2. Any texts relating to county business between the same dates and containing the same terms, whether sent on county-issued or personal phones/devices.


These records are in the public interest, and I am willing to accept any records retrieved in digital format. As such, I do not expect any charge to fulfill this request. However, if there will be any fee charged, please notify me in advance of fulfillment, so that I can determine how best to proceed.


Thank you in advance for your assistance.


Sincerely,


[YOUR NAME]


Title your email "Open Records Request" and send it to Dane County Custodian of Records Dan Lowndes at: lowndes@countyofdane.com.


Not sure who your county supervisor is? You can discover their name and email address here.


NOTE: You can send the request anonymously or with your name on it. Either way, they have to send you the records you've requested.


Drop us a message to let us know which supervisor you've covered, so that we can keep track of what results to expect. Once you get results back and have had a chance to go through them yourself, we’d love to know what you found. Was your supervisor out recruiting registrants, too? What coordination did you find between supervisors? We look forward to hearing from you!


FYI: You’ll likely get back a lot of emails both in support of and in opposition to RES-157. With open records, you frequently need to wade through a bunch of stuff that’s not as valuable to find what is. It’s usually worth it, though. And, heck, sometimes you find something even more valuable than what you were looking for in the first place.


AS A THANK-YOU FOR YOUR HELP...

We offer you a handy 5-page crash course we’ve authored on how to do open records in Wisconsin.

Getting Information from Government
.pdf
Download PDF • 178KB

No engaged citizen should be without this knowledge. The ability to formulate ORRs, obtain information from government, and use it to shine a light in the darkness—well, it's downright empowering. And after the last two years of oppression, wouldn't it be nice to feel a little empowered? Now you, too, can put Dane County agencies and officials (including schools, school boards, and school districts, by the way) back on their heels.


HAVE FUN!!!


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