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Green Bay releases thousands of election documents as calls continue for mayor’s resignation

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 1:26 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The City of Green Bay has made public records requested by those looking into the handling of April and November elections.

The city says it received more than 65 records requests, which produced thousands of documents.

CLICK HERE to view all of the documents released by the city Friday.

“Much misinformation remains around the election, with factually inaccurate statements being made which are not supported by the records. In the interest of transparency, the City of Green Bay is publishing for the community all of the records requested pertaining to the elections. We encourage the community to review the documents themselves rather than relying on the false statements which are being made,” reads a statement from the city.

“In addition, various records were never requested which are directly relevant to the conduct of the election. These include the contract with the KI Convention Center, and the chain of custody log for the absentee ballots confirming when the ballots were moved from City Hall to the KI Convention Center. These records are included here for the benefit of the public.”

The release comes ahead of an election integrity rally scheduled to take place outside Green Bay City Hall Friday at 4 p.m.

Several Republican lawmakers have called on Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich to resign, alleging Genrich used “democratic operatives” to influence the 2020 elections. They’re also critical of a $1.6 million grant from the Center for Tech and Civil Life, which received funding from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

State Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) renewed his call Friday for the mayor to step down. He cites emails in which an election consultant hired by the city, National Vote at Home Institute’s Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, asks about ballots at the central count at the KI Convention Center and whether or not they’ll need to move bins around throughout the day or stick them along the wall and use trays to move them between stations.

Roth is also critical of a document that shows Spitzer-Rubenstein was granted four keys to a room where ballots were stored.

Republicans on the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections have called for the mayor’s resignation.

“This coordinated effort between the mayor’s office and out-of-state political operatives is unethical and illegal. Administering our elections is supposed to be a non-partisan task. Coordinating with Democrat operatives to run an election in Green Bay disgraces all the municipalities across Wisconsin who worked hard to administer their elections. This blatant abuse of power and corruption cannot be ignored and it cannot happen again. We echo Senator Roger Roth’s calls for Mayor Eric Genrich to step down as mayor of Green Bay,” reads a statement from the GOP members of the committee.

On Friday, the Democratic Party of Brown County defended the mayor and commended the city for “leading one of the most well-run, highest turn-out elections in the city’s history despite the incredibly challenging circumstances of the pandemic.”

“The GOP has a concerning pattern of trying to suppress the votes of communities of color because they know they cannot win their votes legitimately,” said Democratic Party Chair Renee Gasch. “Democrats stand in solidarity with the voters across Wisconsin who are being targeted by misinformation and voter suppression. We are focused on developing the policies that will improve the lives of everyday people––not throwing out their votes.”

Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein stepped in when City Clerk Kris Teske took a leave of absence, citing frustration with how the city was handling the elections and claiming she was being bullied by the mayor’s office.

The city says Spitzer-Rubenstein never had access to the ballots.

“No ballots were ever in the care or custody of these consultants. Absentee ballots were kept at City Hall exclusively until they were delivered, by City staff and in City vehicles, to the KI Convention Center at 6:00am on Election Day, utilizing a clear, documented chain of custody made up exclusively of City staff. Central Count moved to the KI Convention Center at the request of both the Democratic and Republican Parties of Wisconsin, who jointly voiced concerns with holding Central County at City Hall. In addition, City staff determined that compliance with social distancing recommendations, from our local, regional and national health authorities, would be difficult with an increased interest from observers. As required by statute, the City conferred with the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) before finalizing the decision to move Central Count to KI. Election observers were allowed at KI, and a livestream of Central Count was made available as a supplemental option to increase the ability for the public to observe as well,” reads a statement from the city.

The matter was the subject of a hearing in Madison this week in which former Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno, a Republican, testified about her frustrations with the city during the elections.

Juno believes the city unlawfully gave Spitzer-Rubentein authority over the election. She also takes issue with Spitzer-Rubenstein being given keys to the November Central Count location at the KI Center in Green Bay.

State Sen. Eric Wimberger (R-Green Bay) wants prosecutors to open an investigation. “I am calling on Brown County District Attorney David Lasee and Attorney General Josh Kaul to investigate whether these allegations were part of any sort of pay-for-play scheme. Every American should have confidence in how their elections are run. This massive abuse of power significantly damages that trust, and we must ensure that situations like this cannot occur in the future.”

Action 2 News spoke with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and asked him about calls for an investigation.

“First, if any, anybody has evidence of any alleged improprieties in the election system, they should send that that evidence to to law enforcement or to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, so that that evidence can be assessed and reviewed so appropriate response can be coordinated. And if, if it’s appropriate for the Department of Justice to be involved in that investigation, which would depend on what the evidence was and what the circumstances of the case were, that’s something that we are, we are always open to, in any circumstance,” Kaul says. “So the first step would be to figure out what evidence is out there. I do think it’s really important to note, and I hope that in covering this that reporters will focus on the context here, which is that there have been months of baseless allegations, challenging the integrity of our elections, primarily, those have been promoted by by former President Trump. But, you know, for those who are concerned about restoring confidence in our elections, being clear that those allegations were false is critical. So with respect to these allegations, you know if there are if there is evidence that submitted to law enforcement and we are involved in reviewing that, we would look at it with an open mind and if there is any impropriety that’s something we would follow up on fully, but that would be the next step.”

The report on Green Bay’s election documents was first published by Wisconsin Spotlight, an arm of conservative organization Empower Wisconsin.

On Friday, Wisconsin Spotlight released a response saying the documents contradict the city’s denials.

“While a denial in a press release may get headlines, we won’t know what really happened until we hear from the mayor and the other individuals involved under oath. Until then, I’ll trust the actual evidence and sworn affidavits that have been provided to the legislature,” State Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville) told Wisconsin Spotlight. " (Green Bay) Mayor (Eric) Genrich owes the public an honest and detailed explanation about his actions in the election on the official record. If the mayor is unwilling to do that, he needs to resign.”

Some members of the UWGB-United faculty and staff union have written an open letter to the Wisconsin legislature defending the mayor.

“We are proud of Mayor of the City of Green Bay, the over 700 poll workers, the National Guard, and City staff for running a robust and transparent election in November that resulted in a historic 84% turnout. We fully support Mayor Eric Genrich’s leadership and look forward to future elections running as smoothly as the one held in November,” reads the letter.

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