Fitzgerald calls on Legislature to appoint Elections Commission administrator if commissioners don’t

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, is now calling for the Legislature to appoint an Elections Commission administrator if commissioners don’t.

His announcement came just a day after the Elections Commission voted 4-2 to re-appoint Michael Haas as interim administrator.

“[Wednesday]’s decision by four commissioners to recognize Haas as the interim administrator was unlawful and there are important responsibilities to be fulfilled for the spring elections to proceed,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Fitzgerald said the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization would be forced to appoint a new administrator if the Elections Commission doesn’t do so within 45 days.

Fitzgerald’s statement immediately followed a 5-1 vote by the Wisconsin Ethics Commission late yesterday afternoon to wait until Feb. 27 to decide who will be its next administrator. Commissioners sought to push their decision to next month while they wait and see what happens with the Elections Commission. The only commissioner voting against the motion was Republican Pat Strachota, a former Assembly member.

Ethics Commission Chair David Halbrooks said he was not interested in following the Elections Commission’s lead in re-appointing former Administrator Brian Bell because unlike Haas, Bell, who is now working for his former employer, the Department of Safety and Professional Services, would not have received any salary if he would have been re-appointed.

Fitzgerald in a statement praised the Ethics Commission.

“I am pleased that the Ethics Commission and Administrator Bell respected the senate confirmation process. I am confident that the transition to a new administrator can occur without a disruption to the agency’s responsibilities.”

Halbrooks, a Democrat, declined to say whether he considers Bell’s position vacant, and used the meeting to call out Fitzgerald for what he sees as a baseless “firing” of Bell.

“It is my impression that Sen. Fitzgerald has gone a long way towards cementing his name right alongside Joseph McCarthy,” Halbrooks said.

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