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News
August 15, 2000

Chamber Sues Milwaukee for Stonewalling Lead Paint Records Request

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 16, 2000 – The United States Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform announced today that it has filed suit against the City of Milwaukee to compel compliance with its Open Records request filed last month. The original request was to determine Milwaukee’s culpability as the city considered suing former manufacturers of lead pigment and lead-based paint.

According to U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform President James Wootton, “the City of Milwaukee appears to be stonewalling our request for records that could have a bearing on the City Council’s September sixth vote on whether to sue member companies of the U.S. Chamber.”

Wootton points out that the Institute for Legal Reform’s formal request and subsequent correspondence made clear that the city should make relevant lead paint abatement records available as they are found, not all at once. The Institute has also agreed to pay the research cost of this search.

The suit filed today names Milwaukee as a defendant and asks the Wisconsin Circuit Court to issue an order compelling the city to allow the Institute to inspect and copy relevant documents.

“The Institute is going to the expense of filing this suit because the citizens of Milwaukee and its elected representatives have a right to know if there is evidence that shows the city itself is at fault for not cleaning up the lead paint problem,” Wootton stated.

The city has been assured that it has little risk of liability in suing lead paint manufacturers according to outside lawyers hired on a contingency fee. However, the Institute is certain that the documents it is requesting will show the city has failed in its obligation to its citizens, particularly its children, to aggressively abate the risk from lead-based paint.

The Chamber suspects these documents would reveal the city’s negligence in the upkeep of public housing units, because the existence of lead paint isn’t the problem, it’s the deterioration of the lead-based paint surfaces.

Wootton concluded, “In our opinion, it would be extremely foolish for the city to expose itself to costly and protracted lawsuits without knowing what these documents show.”

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