Gableman subpoenas Green Bay mayor, speaks at length about election investigation

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 12:33 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2021 at 5:47 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman announced to Green Bay’s city council Tuesday night that he subpoenaed the city’s mayor and at least one person in the mayor’s office as part of his state elections investigation.

Gableman addressed the city council for about 47 minutes, including an introduction that far exceeded the usual 3 minutes allotted for speakers, and a question-and-answer session with city alders.

“The purpose of this investigation is not a prosecution. It is not even litigation,” Gableman said in his introduction. “We are all citizens of the same state. We all want open, transparent, honest and fair elections for which the administrators are accountable.”

“We are not relitigating the 2020 election,” he said. “One of the more vocal criticisms from some quarters is that this investigation is somehow an effort to restore former President Trump to the White House. If that’s the program, nobody has shared it with me, nor would I have accepted the job if that was the condition.”

Gableman was hired by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos as special counsel to investigate Wisconsin’s November 2020 election. Gableman said subpoenas are also being served on mayors and their offices in four other cities, besides Green Bay, which received the “lion’s share” of assistance from the Centers for Tech and Civic Life. That non-profit, which received a $350 million donation from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, gave over $10 million to more than 200 communities in Wisconsin to assist with handling elections during the pandemic. Last week, the special counsel served subpoenas on city clerks in Green Bay and Milwaukee.

Groups like Centers for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) seem to be a major focus of the investigation. Gableman referred a number of times to “private groups that participated substantially in the administration of public elections.” The subpoena to Green Bay City Clerk Celestine Jeffreys, which was obtained by Action 2 News, requested all communications with or pertaining to no fewer than 11 organizations.

He said the investigation will also look at guidance from the Wisconsin Elections Commission. “A lot of published material seems to indicate the clerks take that as mandatory, so those guidance documents then become very relevant to how the election was actually run.”

Gableman also said at one point, “Some evidence has been produced previously that some election officials acted unilaterally not to follow established state law,” but when questioned by city council members if he knows laws were violated, he clarified, “Information was received that could be interpreted that way. But extra investigation will be warranted.”

He downplayed or dismissed partisan appearances of the special counsel investigation. “The Wisconsin Legislature,” he said, “is exercising only its constitutional obligation to oversee the implementation of [election] laws.”

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is already conducting an investigation into the election at the request of Republican leadership; and a letter ordering county clerks to preserve documents (which caused confusion and was mistaken for spam) was signed by Andrew Kloster, a Republican attorney who worked in former President Donald Trump’s administration and who falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen in Wisconsin.

When he was asked if a conservative organization like ALEC had been involved, instead of the CTCL, would he still investigate the election, Gableman said he would. “I promise you, although this time your favored candidate was the beneficiary, next time, no such guarantees,” he said. “People of Wisconsin have a right to expect their public elections will be administered in a way that is not influenced by partisanship one way or another.”

Gableman repeated that his goal is to reinforce or restore faith in the election process.

Gableman told the city council at this point he expects his report to include four sections: What laws say should have happened during the November 2020 election; how the administration of the election actually played out; why that matters; and recommendations for adjustments or changes to the laws “to meet any of the challenges demonstrated in November.”

He does not have a timeline for completing the investigation or giving his report over to the Assembly, but he said he is aware of the importance of next fall’s elections.

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