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Settlement in Kapanke case will cost $38,000

Settlement in Kapanke case will cost $38,000

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A state senator's poor response to a request for records by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will cost taxpayers $38,000, under a legal settlement released Friday.

Sen. Dan Kapanke, R-La Crosse, is taking responsibility for his office's shortcomings in responding to the party's request.

``I intend to take steps to prevent any similar occurrences in the future,'' Kapanke said in a statement released with the settlement.

The Democratic Party sued Kapanke after his office said it had no records relating to two economic forums that were paid for by his campaign. A later search by information technology specialists turned up records from a personal e-mail account that Kapanke's aides had overlooked and failed to release.

The settlement admits the Democratic Party prevailed in the lawsuit and calls for the state to pay $100 in damages and $38,000 in attorneys fees.

``In a democracy a citizen should not have to bring a lawsuit every time he/she seeks public documents,'' Democratic Party attorney Michael Maistelman said in a statement.

Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate called on Kapanke to reimburse taxpayers the $38,000 in legal fees.

Kapanke did not immediately respond to a message left at his Capitol office.

The case comes at a bad time for Kapanke, who is running for Congress in the 3rd District in western Wisconsin. The seat is held by U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, a Democrat who is considering a run for governor.

Jason Stephany, the party's former executive director, filed the lawsuit after Kapanke's office said it had no records related to the April and June forums in La Crosse. Numerous documents have since been released after the party sued and Kapanke's office did a more extensive search for them and released work e-mails that were in his chief of staff's private Yahoo account.

His chief of staff, Rose Smyrski, testified that she did not know records from that account were considered public and subject to the open records law.

There is no policy that prohibits Senate employees from using personal accounts for office business, but under the law those records are public.

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