Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lennon denies Jelinski’s request for documents from Paulus investigation

Within days of E.J. Jelinski’s appearance on Eye on Oshkosh airing for the first time, Winnebago County District Attorney Bill Lennon has denied Jelinski’s open records request for files and other materials associated with the D.A.’s investigation into the activities of former D.A. Joe Paulus.

In issuing that denial, made public today, Lennon said he had conferred with the state Department of Justice, which is conducting its own investigation of Paulus. Lennon said the release of records assembled by his office while investigating Paulus would jeopardize the DOJ’s investigation. He also said that if Paulus or others were eventually charged, the records' release might also prevent those defendants from receiving a fair trial.

Jelinski tells Eye on Oshkosh he has been waiting for a denial so that he can proceed with his next step – filing a civil suit asking that a court order Lennon to release the records.

“I plan to seek a Writ of Mandamus, which is basically filing a civil suit in Circuit Court asking a judge to file an order, ordering an elected official to do what they’re supposed to do. My argument is Lennon is supposed to release these records according to law; he hasn’t done it, in violation of law; and I’m seeking an order forcing him to do it,” Jelinski said.

He is not swayed by Lennon’s citing two separate court cases which he claims support his denial of Jelinski’s request.

“The State ex rel Richards v. Faust case basically says that because district attorneys’ office files often have confidential information in them that they are an exception to the common law rule allowing for open records. I want to make the argument that State ex rel Richards v. Faust does not apply in this case because the district attorney’s office is essentially investigating itself, and because of that the public interest overrides any privacy concerns that State ex rel Richards v. Faust may have concerns about. So it should be an exception to the exception to the rule,” Jelinski continued.

Jelinski contends that the district attorney's office investigation and that of the attorney general's office are separate unto themselves, and because Lennon said his own office's investigation was concluded and closed, the records should be released.

Jelinski is not sure exactly when he will file suit, but said it will happen sometime within the next 30 days. Given the number of people in the Winnebago County Circuit Court system with conflicts of interest in this matter, Jelinski’s suit will likely be heard in another county.


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