(The Center Square) – The person who recorded March's closed-door meeting between Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin's top Republican lawmakers might have committed a felony.
A new memo from the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) breaks down the law regarding recorded phone calls in the state.
"The governor was clearly a party to the communication. And Chief of Staff [Maggie] Gau and Chief Legal Counsel [Ryan] Nilsestuen were very likely parties to the communication as well, since they were announced by the governor as being on the call and they participated in conversations during the call," the memo states. "If any of these individuals recorded the telephone call, or authorized another person to record the call, the recording of the call would not violate [state law.] The recording would be lawful."
But Evers is refusing to say who recorded the phone call.
So the LRB added the caveat: "If another person in the governor’s office recorded the telephone call without the prior consent or authorization of the governor, Chief of Staff Gau, or Chief Legal Counsel Nilsestuen, then the person may well have violated [state law], since the person was not a party to the communication."
Recording people without their permission or knowledge is, according to the memo, "a Class H felony and is subject to a fine of not more than $10,000 or a term of imprisonment for not more than six years or both."
Evers has maintained since news of the secret recording broke last week that he didn't know the call was being recorded. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fotzgerald, R-Juneau, have both said they didn't know the call was being recorded either.
The governor's lawyer, Ryan Nilsestuen, said that someone on the call knew it was being recorded. But he is not saying who.
Fitzgerald said that continues to be a concern.
“If the governor didn’t know that his staff was recording him, this is a bigger problem than he thinks," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "The governor should be in control of his office – the buck stops with him. So if one of his staff committed a felony, he needs to hold that person accountable."