The Dane County District Attorney’s office may have no official position on the recall of Governor Walker, but key individuals in the office certainly have had no hesitation about participating in the recall of the governor. Following up on a tip submission, Media Trackers reviewed recall petitions that appear to have been signed by no less than 17 individuals who work in the Dane County prosecutor’s office. The individuals have positions that range from clerk to assistant district attorney.
Conservatives have argued that the Dane County District Attorney, Ismael Ozanne, and his staff have been political in their handling of key issues. Of particular concern is how the office championed and led the legal battle to overturn Governor Walker’s collective bargaining law. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful with the state Supreme Court ruling against their position.
Lawmakers raised concerns about Ozanne after he dragged his feet on prosecuting individuals who broke the law and even damaged public property as part of their protesting of Walker’s reforms. Ozanne’s close ties to the state Democrat establishment, including former Democrat Governor Jim Doyle and 2010 Democrat gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett, are well documented. Last summer Ozanne had to recuse himself from an investigation into conservative Supreme Court justice David Prosser, citing a potential conflict of interest in the eyes of the public. The investigation subsequently found the allegations against Prosser to be insufficient for legal action.
When contacted with the names of the 17 individuals who appear to have signed the recall petition, the District Attorney’s office confirmed that all of the named individuals were part of the office staff at the time the petitions were signed. The office also indicated that all of the individuals are still a part of the staff.
At least some of the signers had been active in Democrat politics before signing the petitions. Campaign finance records indicate that Assistant District Attorney Emily Thompson and social worker Rachelle Hocking are Democrat donors. Suzanne Zinkel, a paralegal with the office, has endorsed Democrat state Senator Mark Miller. Miller was the Democrat minority leader during the collective bargaining reform debate and led his caucus to flee the state in a futile attempt to block the measure’s passage.
Assistant District Attorney Ragen Shapiro is another high profile signer of the recall petition. Crystal Daley, another employee of the DA’s office, circulated the two recall petitions on which the names appear. All of the signatures were gathered on November 15th, the first day of the signature-gathering period, or November 16th.
It is unclear whether or not the petitions were circulated during the workday or during a break or after hours.
While Wisconsin state law does not prohibit individuals who work in the justice system from signing recall petitions, a recent report by Gannett Wisconsin Media quoted outside experts who said that it would be wise if nonpartisan judges refrained from signing the petitions. District Attorneys are elected with a party affiliation, but the high profile nature of their job and the power they wield, along with any past perception that they are biased towards one side of the political spectrum, certainly allows for legitimate questioning of their participation, or their staff’s participation, in the recall process.