Scott Walker celebrates 1st election, AP photo

Scott Walker celebrates his first election as governor Nov. 2, 2010, in Pewaukee. At the time, Walker was the Milwaukee County executive and his staff was under investigation for theft of funds and other activities as part of a lengthy John Doe investigation. More than 200,000 pages of emails related to that probe were released Tuesday.

JEFFREY PHELPS — Associated Press

Scott Walker’s Milwaukee County staff had a code name for his gubernatorial campaign with which they secretly coordinated strategy and messaging nearly every day: “the dark side.”

The winking reference appears several times in emails that are among some 227,000 pages of records released Tuesday by Milwaukee County. The records, from 2009 and 2010, are among hundreds of thousands of documents seized by prosecutors in the John Doe investigation into Walker’s county executive office before he became governor and are now being released at the request of various media.

It was the fifth release of records related to that investigation, which closed in 2013. The probe resulted in charges and fines against six former employees and associates of Walker — including two for campaigning on county time. Walker was not charged.

Most of the correspondence involves routine county business, but many of the messages were sent using private email accounts.

County staff also used private emails to conduct campaign business and communicate with Walker and his campaign staff, sometimes during regular working hours. In one email from September 2009 with the subject line “county vs. dark side,” Walker’s county spokeswoman, Fran McLaughlin, warned Walker chief of staff Tom Nardelli and campaign manager Keith Gilkes about not crossing the two email systems.

“I think a REALLY STRONG reminder needs to go out to everyone on the list that NO emails from the dark side can be forwarded to our county email addresses or to other county employees,” McLaughlin wrote, describing how one employee had forwarded an email to a county employee that included email addresses for Gilkes and Walker campaign adviser R.J. Johnson. “My receiving isn’t illegal — and while she sent it on her own time — there should never be a connection.”

“You are correct and I will make a point with Scott that he be very sensitive to what he is forwarding and copying as well,” Gilkes responded. “I share the exact same concern and what (sic) to make sure we keep absolute separation.”

“Scott is fully aware,” Nardelli replied. “It’s others who must adhered (sic) to the rule. Scott and all of us have to be constantly aware and reminded of this concern.”

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State Government Reporter for Wisconsin State Journal

Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.