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Wisconsin Gov. Evers faces scrutiny over use of baseball Hall of Famer’s name in state email

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has been using an alternative state email account under the name of a late Hall of Fame baseball player as a security measure, his spokesperson said Monday.

Evers, a Democrat, used a taxpayer-funded email account with the name “[email protected]” to discuss public business with top-level Cabinet appointees and others, the conservative outlet Wisconsin Right Now first reported on Sunday. Warren Spahn is a Hall of Fame former Milwaukee Braves pitcher.

Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback on Monday said use of the alias email addresses is common.

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“As a matter of digital security, dignitaries in the state of Wisconsin have alias email addresses, including the governor, first lady, and lieutenant governor, as has been the case for at least the last decade that I’m aware of, including under former Gov. Walker,” Cudaback said.

Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said he was troubled about the use of what he called “phantom email addresses” and said he had never heard of that practice before.

“I don’t know if they’re common or uncommon,” Lueders said. “I do know if they’re used for public business, they’re subject to the records law.”

Responsive emails requested under the state open records law are always released in accordance with state law, no matter which account they are sent from, Cudaback said.

Open records request responses from the Evers administration routinely contain language that says all identifiers of non-public email addresses are redacted.

“Making this information available would significantly hinder these officials’ ability to communicate and work efficiently,” the boilerplate language says, including in a response sent to The Associated Press on Sept. 16, 2022. “There is minimal harm to the public interest, given that there are numerous public means to communicate with the Office of the Governor and Office of the Lieutenant Governor, and only the address is redacted, not the remaining email content.”

Wisconsin Right Now reported that it asked for all communications to and from “[email protected]” from 2018 to September 2023. The governor’s office rejected the request as being too broad, saying in a response email sent Nov. 22 that more than 17,000 emails were found.

The Department of Administration provided the outlet with more than 30 pages of emails which contained messages back and forth between Evers, Cabinet secretaries and others.

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In one email, dated May 7, 2020, Evers told then-Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan that a box of highly toxic “mechanical solvent” ordered by someone in state government had mistakenly been delivered to the governor’s residence.

Evers wrote that he was “not sure what to do with it.”

Evers, 72, has talked publicly about his love of Milwaukee baseball and Spahn in particular.

In February, when announcing his plan to pay for renovations to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium, Evers said in a statement, “I’ve been watching baseball in Milwaukee since the County Stadium days when I had the chance of a lifetime to watch Warren Spahn’s 300th-career game there way back when.”

Spahn was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 after playing 21 seasons in the major leagues, including from 1953 to 1964 in Milwaukee. He was an All Star 17 times and died in 2003.

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