LA CROSSE, Wis. -- A criminal investigation has become an issue in the historic Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election.
Democratic candidate Tom Barrett is challenging Gov. Scott Walker to be more open when it comes to the investigation into people he used to work with when he was Milwaukee County Executive.
Barrett is talking about the so-called John Doe investigation against a handful of Walker's former staffers. That's when a prosecutor secretly gathers information to see if any laws have been broken.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney has leveled criminal charges against five of Walker's former staffers. Two have been charged with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars that were donated to groups that raise money for veterans and their families. Two are accused of doing campaign work on the Milwaukee County taxpayers' dime. One has been hit with unrelated child enticement charges.
Monday, Barrett called on the governor to release all emails exchanged using a secret wireless Internet system installed yards away from his County Executive office. Those emails are considered central to the John Doe investigation.
"What we don't know is Scott Walker's role in all of this. It is time that he answers the questions as to what his involvement was in this scandal," said Barrett.
"The reason the mayor is making comments like that is because he's desperate,” said Walker.
All of the actions under investigation happened before Walker was elected governor, and Walker said he called for the investigation.
"I've had a strong ethical standard of integrity when I was in the legislature, as county executive, now as the governor. This whole process began because my office at the time I was county executive asked [Milwaukee County District Attorney] John Chisholm to look into that. And we're complying with all the rules and requirements to be able to cooperate to help him," said Walker.
He said releasing the emails Barrett is calling for is something he just can't do.
"We can't,” he said. “Of all people, Tom Barrett, as a lawyer, should know what you're legally obligated to do and not do. And we're going to follow the law."
Barrett said the governor is just trying to avoid accountability before the recall election.
"People need answers and they deserve the truth, and they deserve the truth before the election on June 5,” said Barrett.
Walker has hired a legal defense team for the investigation, but said no public money is being used to pay for their services.