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Mount Pleasant candidate for president Jerry Garski said village officials are stymying his efforts to obtain copies of nomination packets for other candidates for village board.
Garski told Racine County Eye he went to village hall and requested the copies for review because the deadline to file any potential challenges is 4:30 p.m. Friday. But Village Clerk Stephanie Kohlhagen told him he needed to fill out an official open records request first.
“I told her that I’m a candidate so I shouldn’t need to fill out a request because I have a deadline if there are any challenges,” he said.
According to state statute 19.35(1)(h), though, an open records request does not have to be in writing.
“Written or oral. Requests do not have to be in writing,” the statute reads.
Mike Haas, administrator for the elections division at the Government Accountability Board, said with only a few days between when candidates file their nomination papers and the deadline to file a challenge, it’s best practice to fulfill candidates’ requests as quickly as possible.
“There’s only 72 hours between filing and challenging, so when you have a short deadline we don’t focus on the rules of the open records law,” he said. “We think those should be turned around as soon as possible.”
Haas said he spoke to Kohlhagen right before the close of business Thursday, and she told him Friday morning she would have the paperwork ready for Garski.
“I don’t understand what the big deal is. Why wouldn’t you let someone see that?” Garski added.
Racine County Eye sent an email to Kohlhagen about Garski’s request, and she responded Friday morning saying she never refused him and actually fulfilled his request faster than required.
“Mr. Garski was not denied the ability to obtain signature pages, furthermore our conversation was ever about verbal verses written requests. The Village of Mount Pleasant adheres to the Wisconsin State Statutes, most specifically, open records law. He submitted his request and his request was fulfilled faster than the required amount of time listed in State Statutes,” her email reads.