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Josh Kaul ends non-disclosure requirement for all employees

March 13, 2019 GMT

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul Tuesday announced the Department of Justice will no longer require all employees to sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements.

The move from the new AG represents a departure from the way the department was run under former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, who lost his re-election bid and is now a circuit court judge in Waukesha County.

“It’s important that we lead by example,” Kaul said in a statement. “With today’s announcement, we are re-affirming the importance of transparency in government.”

Critics knocked Schimel during the 2018 campaign for a requirement that employees sign non-disclosure agreements and former DOJ employees characterized morale at the department as “extremely bad and sinking.”

Schimel in August 2018 had sent an email to more than 100 staffers at the agency instructing them to sign an agreement barring them from disclosing anything confidential about their work, even after leaving the department or state.

A uniform non-disclosure agreement had originally been drafted in 2017 to be signed by all the department’s employees, according to previous reporting.

The DOJ at the time said the agreement had nothing to do with the fact Schimel was seeking re-election, but rather that employees deal regularly with confidential and sensitive information.

A DOJ spokeswoman Tuesday said non-disclosure agreements previously signed by employees will no longer be in effect.

While non-disclosure agreements have been discarded, Kaul in an email to staffers said existing department and ethics rules already prevent some employees from disclosing confidential information.