Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
The Friday before the election, “during school time, hundreds of Franklin High School seniors of voting age were taken to an Assembly and then drilled by school personnel about why they should vote for the referenda.
Doors to the Assembly reportedly were locked so no one could leave and no one could enter to see and hear what was going on.
The impropriety of this action by Franklin school officials is clear. The surprise Assembly on the Friday before the election should never have taken place. I’m not sure if the Assembly was illegal, but it certainly was extremely unethical.”
Former Franklin School Board President Scott Bauer writes about the "Assembly" in a long piece he did on Janet Evans' blog today. Bauer writes:
"Before the day of the vote, some issues came up regarding a high school presentation. My two middle-school aged children were also forced to bring home “Vote Yes” literature – a direct violation of district policy. The community was in an uproar. Our district was being slammed in the press and on the radio. People were furious that the district had stooped so low as to use our children as pawns for this referendum. Now, I’m not saying that this was the district’s intention. I was told that these events were the result of miscommunication, and I guess it’s likely that could be the case. However, whether or not you intentionally harm or offend those you are expected to represent, I always feel an apology is in order. I suggested that we apologize. In return, I was told that I was betraying people. I was called all kinds of names. I was once again being accused of being divisive, uncooperative, and disrespectful. I was admonished and scorned. In the end, even though district policy was violated (as far as I’m concerned), I was told we did nothing wrong, had no reason to apologize, and, therefore, would not apologize. In my opinion, we just drove the wedge a little deeper between the board and the community."
The “assembly” was reviewed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. The investigation included a questionnaire filled out by former Franklin superintendent William Szakacs. I have obtained a copy of his answers to the questions about the “assembly,” and will release them soon.
Assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, who conducted the investigation of the Franklin assembly, has informed me of the following in an e-mail:
Thanks for your interest.
No "charges" were issued. I use the term "charges" in quotes because the matter is probably at most a civil forfeiture action. This has the same punitive impact as a municipal ticket for things like speeding or a parking violation.
That no charges were issued does not mean that the matter is dead. The problem with this entire area of the law is that - well - there is no law.
That is, there is no clear Wisconsin case law on what a public entity like the School District can and cannot do with public funds to "educate" their constituents on matters like school finance referenda.
As a lawyer, like you might well imagine, it is a bit less than ideal to file a case and not really know what the law is.
I am also mindful that the superintendent has now left the District and this too has been a factor leading to the manner in which I have elected to handle this matter.
Short of going to court to "make law," there is a procedure available to District Attorneys (and I mean by this the elected DA, not me) whereby the prosecutor can submit a fact scenario to the Attorney General for an opinion on the law. Once issue, that opinion has value as "precedent."
I am seeking approval to take that route. Admittedly, in a perfect world without an active caseload, I would have completed this by now. I regret the delay and I assure you that your inquiry will inspire me to move this along with all available dispatch.
Bruce J. Landgraf
Assistant District Attorney
While state law is unclear on this issue, it appears that Franklin violated their own district policy by trying to indoctrinate and influence Franklin students on how to vote on the referenda.
This is yet another example of how this school district’s administration can’t be trusted.
I am glad the DA’s office is continuing to pursue this matter and will keep you informed of their progress.