Statement from Kevin J. Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B:
The Government Accountability Board recognizes that many Wisconsinites have passionate views regarding politics in this state, as well as actions taken by elected officials on both sides of the aisle.
As a result, the G.A.B. receives many complaints asking the Board to investigate or become involved in what are, in essence, political controversies. Not every action of a public officeholder that a citizen may disagree with constitutes a violation of the Ethics Code for State Public Officials or of campaign finance laws.
The G.A.B. is an independent, non-partisan agency. The public can be assured the G.A.B. will investigate the activities of public officials where there is a reasonable basis to do so. However, the G.A.B. has no authority over procedural rules of the Legislature, and cannot insert itself into political and legislative debates.
The Board does not accept or investigate complaints involving the following:
- Campaign Finance Violations Involving Elections for Local Office – While the Board has concurrent jurisdiction with district attorneys regarding these matters, the Board's policy is to instruct complainants to file such complaints with the district attorney in the county where the violation is alleged to have occurred. The Board may choose to investigate a complaint if it appears likely that there is a clear violation, the violation is more than technical, there is reason to suspect that the violation is occurring or may occur in other localities, and the violation may have statewide significance.
- Code of Ethics for Local Public Officials – Contact the district attorney in the county where the violation is alleged to have occurred.
- Open Meetings and Public Records Laws – Contact the Wisconsin Department of Justice, 608-266-1221 or visit its website.
- Code of Judicial Conduct – Contact the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, 608-266-7637, or visit its website.
Use this link to give us feedback -- positive and negative -- about your experience voting. The Board will use this information to improve future elections.
Use this link to report irregularities you witnessed with the recall petition process, at or around the polling place, or to file a complaint about an election official. Information collected may be used to open an investigation, and forwarded to a District Attorney for possible use in a prosecution.
Complaints involving the following parties and subjects may be filed with the Board:
- Election Crimes.
Anyone who witnesses potential election fraud or voter intimidation may file a report with the Board. See Section §12.13.
- Local election officials.
A voter may file a complaint alleging that an election official has violated the law or abused the official’s discretion regarding nominations, qualifications of candidates, voting qualifications, including residence, ward division and renumbering, recall, ballot preparation, election administration or conduct of elections. See Section §5.06.
- Compliance with federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA).
Whenever any person believes that a violation of HAVA has occurred, is occurring, or is proposed to occur with respect to an election for national office in Wisconsin, that person may file a written, verified complaint with the Board. See Section §5.061, Stats.
- Members and staff of the Government Accountability Board are subject to strict confidentiality provisions related to investigations or prosecution of violations under the Board’s jurisdiction. See Section 12.13(5).
- Except as permitted by law and as necessary to communicate with law enforcement, no Board member, employee, or investigator may disclose information related to a Board investigation or prosecution.
- Violations of this confidentiality requirement are subject to a fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment for not more than 9 months, or both. See Section 12.60(1)(bm).
The Ethics and Accountability Division accepts these complaints:
- Compliance with Campaign Finance Laws.
Any person may file a complaint with the Board asking that it investigate alleged violations of campaign finance laws under Chapter 11 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
- Code of Ethics for State Public Officials.
Certain state public officials are subject to regulations related to standards of conduct, use of office for personal financial gain, and conflicts of interest. See Sections 19.41 - 19.58.
- Compliance with Lobbying Laws.
Lobbyists and organizations which hire lobbyists are subject to certain restrictions and reporting requirements under Sections 13.61 - 13.65 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
The Board may conduct an investigation and pursue civil forfeitures, or refer the matter to the appropriate district attorney for criminal prosecution.
To File a Complaint:
Please complete form GAB-1100 to file a formal complaint with the Ethics and Accountability Division.
- When the Board receives a complaint, it will first assess whether there is a reasonable basis to investigate. The Board’s staff may attempt to obtain further information before the Board makes that decision. If the Board believes there is a sufficient basis to proceed, it may authorize an investigation.
- The Board may issue subpoenas, take depositions, and ask courts to issue search warrants. By statute, with limited exceptions, all aspects of, and records related to complaints and investigations are confidential. The Board’s staff may acknowledge it has received a complaint only if the complainant makes it public. All actions by the Board regarding complaints and investigations take place in closed session.
- At the conclusion of an investigation, the Board may dismiss a complaint, seek a voluntary forfeiture, bring a court action for a civil forfeiture, or refer a matter to the appropriate District Attorney or other prosecutor for criminal prosecution.
- Under s. 5.05(5s)(e), only these records related to a complaint or investigation are open to public inspection and copying under s. 19.35 (1):
- Any record of the action of the board authorizing the filing of a civil complaint under sub. (2m) (c) 6.
- Any record of the action of the board referring a matter to a district attorney or other prosecutor for investigation or prosecution.
- Any record containing a finding that a complaint does not raise a reasonable suspicion that a violation of the law has occurred.
- Any record containing a finding, following an investigation, that no probable cause exists to believe that a violation of the law has occurred.