Prosecutors believed Gov. Scott Walker committed a felony when he was Milwaukee County executive for his role in the rejection of a lease extension for county office space, a Wednesday court filing shows.
Walker, who is seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, was never charged with a crime, and has long said he was never a target of the secret 2011 John Doe investigation into his county office.
On Wednesday, prosecutors filed into the court record a 2011 request for a search warrant that was part of the investigation. The filing by investigator Robert Stelter in federal court came in response to a lawsuit brought against the prosecutors by Walker aide Cindy Archer, who also was under investigation.
Stelter wrote in the search warrant request that there was probable cause to believe Walker, Friends of Scott Walker campaign treasurer John Hiller and real estate broker Andrew Jensen violated state public office misconduct laws in 2010.
None of them, or Archer, was charged. But six other Walker aides or associates were convicted on a variety of charges, including two for doing illegal campaign work in 2010.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick referred questions to Walker campaign spokeswoman AshLee Strong, who criticized the filing as an attempt to influence public opinion.
“The information released today comes from a case that has been closed for more than two years,” Strong said. “It is another example of the politics involved in this process as people who could not prove things in a court of law are attempting to win in the court of public opinion.”
Archer has sued the investigators, saying they violated her constitutional rights to free speech and association, and unreasonable search and seizure.
Prosecutors, including Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, and assistant district attorneys Bruce Landgraf and David Robles, were looking into signs of misconduct and bid-rigging regarding competition to house the Department of Aging in private office space.
Hiller, a real estate broker who at the time was Walker’s longtime campaign treasurer, was quietly working for one of three bidders seeking to provide office space and buy an aging building known as City Campus owned by Milwaukee County.
Stelter argued in the warrant request that Walker committed a felony when in June of 2010 he used a personal email account to ask Hiller for a letter that rejected Department of Transportation and Public Works director Jack Takarian’s request for a six-month extension for the county’s Department on Aging office lease in the Reuss Federal Plaza in Milwaukee. That rejection set up the need for a later deal “against the interests of Milwaukee County,” the warrant said.
Hiller then forwarded the email to Jensen, according to the search warrant request, who then with Hiller wrote the letter rejecting the extension.
The State Journal reported in 2014 that Hiller got detailed financial information from Archer when she was county director of the Department of Administration around the time he was bidding on the deal, according to emails released in the John Doe investigation. The probe, which began when Walker was Milwaukee County executive, showed Hiller lobbied for the county to sell its City Campus building and then got information around the time bids were being evaluated to provide office space for workers to be displaced by the sale.
The county never followed through with the deal for the building and no charges were filed.
Hiller, in one email to Archer on Aug. 20, 2010, said he thought officials involved with the request for proposals were unaware of his involvement. “I am very sensitive to the situation and I work pretty hard not to leave finger prints,” wrote Hiller, who resigned as Walker’s campaign treasurer in May 2011.
The emails related to the sale and lease deal were included in roughly 16,000 emails released by the office of current Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele in 2014.
Melissa Baldauff, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party, said Walker needs to address the matter.
“People in Wisconsin and across the country deserve answers from Governor Walker on why law enforcement officials had probable cause to believe he committed felonies,” Baldauff said.
Walker is scheduled to take part in the first Republican presidential candidate debate Thursday night in Cleveland.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.