In the wake of Green Bay’s city hall bugging scandal, two Green Bay-area lawmakers are introducing a bill creating clear requirements for government officials to collect audio recordings.
The measure, authored by State Representative David Steffen (R-Howard) and State Senator Eric Wimberger (R-Green Bay), would establish “stringent requirements” should local or state government officials feel the need to audio record in public buildings.
The city of Green Bay is doubling down on its legally dubious policy on bugging City Hall, and it appears a lawsuit is in the offing.
In response to a warning letter from the Wisconsin State Senate, Green Bay’s Chief of Operations Joseph Faulds has issued a statement asserting the city will continue its audio surveillance, but it will provide notice about the recording devices.
An Attorney representing the Wisconsin State Senate sent a letter this week to Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich demanding he immediately disable the audio recording devices planted in city hall. The letter also demands the city destroy all illegally obtained audio recordings.
“This surveillance activity is not only disturbing. It is unlawful,” writes Ryan J. Walsh, the attorney representing the lawmakers.
The installation of audio recording devices at Green Bay’s City Hall without the general knowledge of the public is “unsettling,” more than likely illegal and an “egregious breach of privacy,” Green Bay-area lawmakers tell The Wisconsin Daily Star.
“Whether this is sheer incompetence or malevolence, it might be impossible to overstate just how jaw-droopingly brazen a violation of civil rights [this is],” said state Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere.) He added that Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich and other city officials have exposed the city and themselves to “criminal and civil liabilities” for “snooping on citizens.”
Records obtained by The Star News Network show Green Bay city officials installed at least three audio recording devices in City Hall — without notifying the City Council or the public.
Alderman Chris Wery, who represents Green Bay’s 8th District, described the secret recordings as the kind of “Big Brother stuff” found in a George Orwell novel.